Former Bearcats remain committed to Bama baseball following coaching change

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CULLMAN – If Cullman High School graduates Jacob Heatherly and Noah Fondren want plenty of details about the new baseball coach at the University of Alabama, they can get in contact with another former Bearcat, Keegan Thompson.

Alabama hired Auburn assistant Brad Bohannon on Thursday, a week after the school dismissed Greg Goff following one season at the Capstone.

Heatherly and Fondren signed letters of intent back last November to play for the Crimson Tide. Following the completion of great careers on the diamond for the Bearcats, a week ago, Heatherly and Fondren said goodbye to CHS upon graduation.

Bohannon and former Cullman pitcher Thompson have been together at Auburn since 2016 when Bohannon arrived. Thompson sat out the 2016 season due to an arm injury, but has returned in 2017 and was key for the Tigers getting a berth to the NCAA Regionals.

Alabama took interest in Heatherly and Fondren after the Bearcats went 41-14 in 2016, finishing second in Class 6A to Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa. Fondren said Goff heavily recruited him last summer. Heatherly had a good season on the mound for the Bearcats as a junior and was strong with a 10-1 record this year.

The left-hander went 5-0 in the playoffs, including a 9-1 win over Helena in game one of the 6A championship series on May 18. Heatherly allowed one earned run in 31 innings of work during the postseason, pitching two shutouts and allowing Helena just two hits in his final appearance.

Fondren was the lead-off batter for the 'Cats and a very stout defender at third base. Fondren compiled a .415 average his senior season with 24 runs batted in.

The duo are two of 11 commitments for Alabama from the Class of 2017. Alabama signed Helena catcher Sam Praytor, who knows Heatherly and Fondren very well. They met three times in the 6A championship series, with Praytor a prominent factor in Helena’s come-from-behind win of the state title after dropping the opener in Montgomery.

Alabama stumbled on the diamond this year, going only 5-24-1 in the SEC and 19-34-1. This was the least number of victories for Tide baseball since the 1980 season. One season with Goff was enough due to a series of issues developing with the program, according to reports.

New University of Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne had good knowledge of Bohannan from the past. The two worked together when Bohannon was an assistant at Kentucky and was hired there by Byrne, who was associate athletic director.

Bohannon has been involved in SEC baseball for 13 years, working between 2004 to 2015 with Kentucky and two years at Auburn. The Tigers wiped out a tough 2016 campaign with 23 wins against 33 losses to a 35-24 record this season, going 16-14 in the SEC and earning a berth to the Tallahassee Regional.

Bohannon will be introduced as the new coach at Alabama in a news conference on Monday after Auburn returns from the regional.

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