E.A. Sports Today

Turner turns to Tide

Rising Oxford sophomore commits to Alabama baseball, emerges late in the year as a pitching prospect

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

During the past season, Jarin Turner was Oxford’s secret weapon. He was that spot or emergency starter that every team needs to deliver if it’s going to win as many games as the Yellow Jackets did last year.

Well, the secret’s out now.

Alabama offered the rising sophomore after a quick visit Tuesday afternoon and even though he won’t graduate for another three years the big right-hander happily committed.

“I’m pretty excited,” Turner said. “I don’t know many people my age who get offered as early, so I thought it was pretty cool to be offered as early as I did.”

Turner reminds Oxford coach Wes Brooks of another big-bodied Yellow Jackets pitcher with an easy delivery — Trent Simpson. He has a fastball, slurve and split-finger in his arsenal and currently hits the radar gun in the upper 80s.

Turner was with the varsity all season and posted a 4-1 record with a 4.20 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 30 innings. But it wasn’t until late in the season and especially this summer that he emerged as a true pitching prospect.

“I don’t think before late this season, this summer, he saw himself as an arm,” Brooks said.

Actually, baseball “just kind of came along” to him — after soccer and football — when he was 10, but he’s a committed baseball player now. He started out as a catcher and then started catching his coaches’ eye as a pitcher when he began throwing 85-88 in the bullpen in January; he just wasn’t hitting it consistently.

He continued to progress and impressed enough in midweek sessions during the playoffs to earn a look in the second game of the Jackets’ series at Cullman. He hit 86 in that appearance – this time, with several college coaches in the stands. He has topped out at 89.

“I kind of figured out that I could throw it kind of hard, so I figured pitchers throw hard and I can throw kind of hard, I might as well try it,” he said. “Then, I started pitching and started getting good at it and stuck with it.”

New Alabama pitching coach Terry Rooney was convinced after seeing him throw to only one batter for his East Cobb Astros summer team.

“It surprised me,” Turner said of the interest. “The first time I heard about it I threw to one batter; he saw the last batter of the game.

“I was leaving the dugout and my coach called me back and said you’re about to get a text and I need you to call that number. It turned out to be Coach Rooney. I was leaving the field and gave him a call.”

Two of Turner’s older East Cobb Astros teammates also have committed to the Tide – shortstop Isaiah Byars of Orange Park, Fla., and pitcher-outfielder Carson Crowe of Tuscaloosa.

Turner is the fourth Oxford baseball player to commit to Alabama since 2009 — and the second to do so as a sophomore.

Even though he’s been offered by the Tide as a pitcher, Turner is projected to play multiple positions for the Yellow Jackets this coming season. He’s projected as one of their top three pitchers, perhaps even a closer, play first base and DH and bat in the middle of the lineup. He hit .272 with three doubles and six RBIs last spring.

“We’d be crazy not to get his bat in the lineup,” Brooks said. “Just because they offered him as a pitcher doesn’t tell Coach Brooks he needs to be a pitcher only.”

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