clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2021 Alabama Softball Preview: Team25 is Ready To Roll

New, 6 comments

The 25th Crimson Tide softball team is loaded if they can find a rhythm.

Looking for another ring.

RBR is back for another spring of Alabama softball coverage. Be forewarned that though this site is dedicated to all things Crimson Tide, we are not blind Gumps. If we see an issue with something or someone, we are going to talk about it. Last spring, this site had a few critical things to say about Team24 before the season got cancelled, and rightfully so. The team seemed uninspired and going through the motions. Some folks - including a certain Alabama broadcaster - got all bent out of shape about it on Twitter. Don’t expect the tone of RBR to change this season if things don’t go right. We will encourage and cheer for our team, but also will not censor our honest opinions.

LAST SEASON

With preseason rankings of either #1 or #2 on the four polls, hopes for Team24 were sky-high. The Crimson Tide had several returning All-SEC players and a strong group of seniors meshed with an excellent recruiting class. The rotation looked deep for this team to go on a run to Omaha. However, the look on paper did not reflect the output on the field.

The Tide began the season losing three of their first four and going 1-6 against ranked teams in the first month of the season. Pitching gave up a ton of runs and the lack of timely hitting was glaring. In the SEC, Bama lost a 1-0 opener to #20 Arkansas but then dominated the next two games and looked to be getting their act together. And then the Captain Trips panic started.

[SIDE NOTE: Softball did not name All-Americans for last season.]

THIS SEASON

Due to the leadership at Mal Moore Athletic Facility and the SEC office, the 2021 softball looks to get back to a normal schedule. The Tide have 46 games scheduled including the the usual 24-game SEC slate.

Thanks to the rash decision by the NCAA to give every college athlete a “bonus” season, most other college sports teams faced a big problem of roster management.

Thanks to former Alabama AD Bill Battle, the softball team has a solution at least on the financial front.

It would’ve been a shame to not let these senior ladies finish the season after all the work they have put in. However, it causes quite the logjam for playing time. This year’s roster will have 22 scholarship players, enough for two complete teams.

PRE-SEASON

Number 8, huh? That sounds familiar...

Montana Fouts, Bailey Hemphill, Lexi Kilfoyl and KB Sides have all been named to the 2021 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch List.

COACHES

The three-headed brain-trust of Patrick Murphy (23rd season), Alyson Habetz (23rd season), and Stephanie VanBrakle Prothro (tenth season) are all back.

PITCHERS

DEPARTING

None

RETURNING

  • Montana Fouts RHP Jr. Grayson, KY - If you don’t know who this is, turn in your Gump card. Though occasionally inconsistent, this field general can be down right dominating most of the time. Nobody works harder than her.
  • Lexi Kilfoyl RHP Soph. Land O’ Lakes, FL - She might actually be better than Fouts. Fans hope to finally see what she can do over a full season.
  • Sarah Cornell RHP Grad. Westbury, NY / Hofstra - The cheerleader of the team always has everyone loose and having fun. And her teammates respond. She gets more run support than any Bama pitcher of recent memory.
  • Krystal Goodman RHP Sr. Long Beach, MS / Chipola College - Often solid in relief but probably not a starter with what is ahead of her.

NEW

  • Alex Salter RHP Fr. Fort Myers, Fla. / Estero HS - Ranked 11th in the Extra Inning Elite 100; can also play first base.
  • Jaala Torrence RHP Fr. Dothan, Ala. / Dothan HS - Ranked 23rd in the Extra Inning Elite 100.

This staff is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. Anticipating the departures of Goodman and Cornell, Murphy signed two more pitchers to go with All-American candidates Fouts and Kilfoyl. However, deciding who gets the innings at the cost of others will be a dilemma.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Under normal circumstances, a college team can get to Oklahoma City on the backs of two pitchers, and sometimes one. There is not a lot of room for auditions with Alabama facing Texas and Arizona in three of the first four games. Early on, expect Murphy to go with Montana, Kilfoyl, and Cornell while maybe getting a few short appearances in for the freshmen. The next three weekends features a good deal of cupcakes* in which Murphy can experiment before SEC play starts March 12 at Auburn.

* Liberty (DH), Gardner-Webb (DH), UAB, Memphis (DH), Troy, Kent State (DH), UNI (DH), South Alabama.

CATCHERS

DEPARTING

  • Karla Hice had to medically retire due to a bad shoulder. It’s a shame. She appeared in four games as a pinch-hitter during her 2020 freshman campaign. Three out of the four times, she connected with RBI hits, twice against Arkansas when the team started to get rolling. How many players finish their careers with a .750 BA, .750 OB%, and a 1.000 SLG%?

RETURNING

  • In late 2019, Abby Doerr (pictured above) was still in high school when she realized she could reclassify to the 2020 recruiting class and enroll early. After missing the first few games, she finally got the clearance to play. She started out strong at the plate, hitting a two-run home run in her second career at-bat, but cooled off as the season went on. Being thrust into the starting lineup as the everyday backstop may have been too much too soon for such a young player. After a year with the team, hopefully she has settled in.
  • Bailey Hemphill has caught several games over her Bama career but is needed more at first base.

NEW

  • Freshman KJ Haney can play catcher and first base but will most likely get a look at the former.

PROJECTED STARTER

C - DOERR

Catcher is the one position that may be an issue. It may be a trial by fire between the three ladies in order to figure it out.

INFIELDERS

DEPARTING

  • Brace yourself. Skylar Wallace has transferred out. Are you sitting down? To Florida. RBR sources tell us that she was asked to try other positions (↑) in order to get the best nine on the field and she refused. This led to a mutual parting of the ways.

RETURNING

  • 1B Bailey Hemphill Grad. Lafayette, LA - She is one of the best sluggers in the game but really struggled at the plate in 2020. She only had 10 RBI in 22 games and went 0-9 against Arkansas in the final weekend.
  • 3B Maddie Morgan Sr. Lynnwood, WA - One of the more vocal leaders on the field. She hit .350 in 2020 and was second on the team in RBI with 20 in 18 games. Normally a slick fielder, she had a few issues in the field (5 errors) last season.
  • 2B/3B Savannah Woodard Soph. Warrior, AL - Had a strong freshman year and should only get better.
  • SS Claire Jenkins Grad. Cullman, AL - Jenkins suffered a torn ACL during the offseason and missed all of last season. With medical advances of today, she should be close to 100%. But has she been away too long?
  • IF Kyra Lockhart Jr. Duluth, GA - Has had trouble getting playing time since suffering an injury on opening weekend of the 2019 season.
  • IF Taylor Clark Grad. R/R 5-9 Mechanicsburg, PA / Virginia Tech - Will probably only get pinch-hitting opportunities.

NEW

  • SS Bailey Dowling Fr. R/R 5-10 St. Joseph, IL - This fab freshman was ranked as the 2nd best prospect in the Extra Inning Elite 100 for the class of 2020 - basically a 5-star. A HIGH 5-star. She is so good that a certain former player who hit .387 last year might have been asked to move to another position make way for her. Pencil Dowling in at shortstop.

PROJECTED STARTERS

The infield is going to be a tough one to project. There may be a few platooning situations. Alexis Mack played a lot of second base in 2020 but she will probably be delegated to the outfield.

1B - HEMPHILL/HANEY
2B - WOODARD/MACK
SS - DOWLING/JENKINS
3B - MORGAN/WOODARD

OUTFIELDERS

DEPARTING

  • As a freshman, Mary Greg Anderson made the team last season as a rare walk-on and found a role as a pinch-running specialist, scoring 8 runs. When last reported, she was in the transfer portal (yes, softball has one of those too).

RETURNING

  • Elissa Brown Grad. Eclectic, AL - The grad student’s softball career looked to be over when she broke her hand last February as a senior. She has been a solid leadoff hitter, base stealer, and perhaps the second best to ever patrol centerfield at UA after Haylie McCleney. Her injury should not hamper her play but how many reps will she need to get back to All-SEC shape?
  • KB Sides Sr. Dora, AL - Perhaps the most underappreciated player on a team of all-stars, she led the team in hitting last season with a robust .438 batting average and 22 RBI, with 20 runs scored. Her on-base percentage was a hearty .542.
  • Alexis Mack Grad. Brecksville, OH - Grad transfer from Oregon a year ago gave the team a spark at the top of the order. She led the team with 12 steals. She can also play second base.
  • Kaylee Tow Sr. Madisonville, KY - Tow was still recovering from a nagging injury last year and was often the designated player/hitter (DP). But she is still a potential All-American.
  • Jenna Johnson Soph. Franklin, TN - Filled in at centerfield as a true freshman when Brown went down and did a fine job.
  • Kayla Davis Jr. Hueytown, AL - Missed last season due to an offseason injury.

NEW

  • Kat Grill Fr. Tuscaloosa, AL - Hometown girl from American Christian Academy. The three-time All-State performer can also play the infield.

PROJECTED STARTERS

If Brown is back 100%, she should be in center. Her back-up Johnson is probably the best option in left. With only one DP slot, Murphy needs to find a way to get those two, plus Mack, Sides, and Tow in the lineup. He is going to have some tough choices to make this spring.

LF - JOHNSON/MACK
CF - BROWN/JOHNSON
RF - SIDES/TOW

ALUMNI

  • Charlotte Morgan was named head coach at Cal State Northridge.
  • Caroline Hardy was named assistant coach at Young Harris College located in North Georgia. The Mountain Lions compete in NCAA Division II. Hardy served as a volunteer coach last season at Georgia Tech.

PROGRAMMING NOTE

The games this Friday vs. Colorado State (10:30 am) and against Texas (3:30 pm) will be aired on the Longhorn Network (sigh). It’s likely that all of the games this weekend will be. But there is a solution. Click here for instruction on how to sign up for a free trial access.