University of Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy might have his best defensive team yet, and with senior ace Alexis Osorio leading the way, he isn’t worried about his pitching.
So, the offseason emphasis has been on hitting. From drills to some new technological gadgets, everything’s been on doing whatever is necessary to improve.
“It’s been a lot of fun to watch,” he said. “You never know if it’s going to translate to the games, but I think we’ll score more runs.”
This weekend will be his first indication as Alabama, ranked No. 10 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll and 11th in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches poll, opens the 2018 season at South Alabama on Thursday, followed by games Friday and Saturday in the Sand Dollar Classic.
Alabama hit .273 last year, last in the Southeastern Conference. So was the team’s .390 slugging percentage. Despite those struggles, the Crimson Tide were just one win away from reaching the Women’s College World Series.
For the start of the season, Alabama’s lineup might look something like this:
- Elissa Brown, sophomore, center field
- Demi Turner, senior, second base
- Bailey Hemphill, sophomore, first base
- Peyton Grantham, senior, third base
- Gabby Callaway, sophomore, right field
- Reagan Dykes, junior, catcher
- Kaylee Tow, freshman, DP
- Merris Schroder, junior, left field
- Sydney Booker, senior, shortstop
As a freshman last year, Hemphill found her power stroke, batting .309 with 29 runs scored and led the team with 9 home runs, 41 RBI and 57 walks.
What Murphy’s hoping is that someone else starts driving the ball as well.
“I’d love to see Caroline [Hardy] hit some shots, give us some pop that we need,” he said. “Between her, probably Kaylee Tow and Gabby, if those three can hit some shots, we could be really good. I’m talking doubles and home runs, not singles up the middle, to drive in some runs.
“I really think that if Bailey does what she’s capable of doing, she could lead the country in RBIs because the first two batters are going to get on.”
Osorio finished last season with a 23-8 record, 1,21 ERA and 334 strikeouts en route to being named an NFCA first-team All-American.
Alabama’s other two pitchers are newcomers. Freshman Madison Preston is a 5-foot-11 left-hander, while junior college transfer Courtney Gettins pitched for the New Zealand national team.
“The three are totally different,” said Murphy, who is beginning his 20th season. “Alexis is probably the hardest thrower. Preston has a lot of movement and is left-handed, obviously, and then Courtney throws different pitches from the other two. I think you could see five innings from Lex and then two from someone else and go complete opposite.”
- What: Alabama will play five games in the Mobile area, including four in the Sand Dollar Classic.
- When: Thursday-Saturday
- Where: Jaguar Field and Gulf Shores Sportsplex, Gulf Shores, Ala.
- Schedule: Alabama visits South Alabama at 7 p.m. ET Thursday. For the Sand Dollar Classic, it’ll face Lamar at 2 p.m. ET and Penn State at 5 p.m. ET on Friday, and Virginia Tech at 1 p.m. ET and Florida A&M at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. The schedule is subject to change with inclement weather in the forecast.
What’s the best way to keep up with the game
Fans have numerous options:
Radio: 93.3 FM in Tuscaloosa.
Live video: Only the South Alabama game will be available.
Twitter updates: @AlabamaSB
What you should know
- Alabama is coming off a 46-18 season, 12-11 in SEC play, and fifth-place finish in the league. It was picked for the same spot in the preseason coaches’ poll but did receive a first-place vote.
- Alabama has six seniors on the roster, tied for the most in program history: Grantham, Osorio, Turner, Booker, Carrigan Fain and Rachel Bobo. It’s been a lucky number for the Crimson Tide as the program’s best teams have all had six seniors.
- There are also six new players on the team, including Gettins, along with freshmen Preston, Tow, Kyra Lockhart, Maddie Morgan and KB Sides.
- Alabama is 13-0 all time against South Alabama, including a 3-0 record in Mobile.
- Alabama heads to Hattiesburg, Miss., for the Black and Gold Tournament, hosted by Southern Miss., next weekend. The Crimson Tide will play four games over three days from Friday-Sunday.
— Alabama Softball (@AlabamaSB) January 31, 2018