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2022 Alabama Softball Preview: A Different Feel For Team26

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The 26th Crimson Tide softball team looks ready for a run at the championship.

Montana Fouts is ready to roll.

RBR is back for another spring of Alabama softball coverage. For over a decade, we have provided extensive coverage and do so in a candid call-em-as-we-see-em manner. Sometimes, it can be critical. That is who we are and we won’t change for the rage mob. If you want sunshine and lollipops, there are plenty of others out there who will gladly blow sunshine up your nether regions. Now that that is out of the way, let’s start the preview!

LAST SEASON

The disappointments among players and fans from the results of last year’s World Series were deep. However, it was an exemplary campaign with so much to be proud of. With a number 8 preseason ranking, the Tide felt they had much to prove. Early season-ending injuries to two starting infielders could have been devastating. However, Team25 still won the SEC Tournament and made it all the way to the World Series Final Four.

Some rumors had it that there were a few “personality conflicts” among last year’s roster. Whether true or not, any issues of that kind do not seem to exist among this group. There is a good vibe on Team26 of determination and focus.

Bama finished 52-9 and 18-6 in the SEC. Montana Fouts and Bailey Hemphill were named first team All-Americans. Kaylee Tow made the third team.

THIS SEASON

Stop me if you heard this one before: Alabama has two glaring position needs. To fill those holes, the coaching staff has gone to the Transfer Portal and picked up a big hitter from Tennessee and an underappreciated player from Ohio State. No, we are not talking about Henry To’o To’o and Jameson Williams. It’s Ally Shipman (lifetime .331 BA) and Ashley Prange. The former might be the most important transfer the softball program has ever gotten. She is an excellent catcher and a huge addition to the batting lineup. Third baseman Prange had a .241 batting average in 2021, but she led the Buckeyes in at bats, runs scored (25), and doubles (11). She also has a solid glove at the hot corner. With Bailey Hemphill and Maddie Morgan out of eligibility, these two moves are master strokes for Coach Patrick Murphy.

Montana Fouts is the absolute rock star of the sport right now. Add in Lexi Kilfoyl and Alabama presents one of the most feared pitching duos in the nation.

The Crimson Tide has only one Super-senior this year. Kaylee Tow is back for one last go around and hope fully a big season.

Some familiar faces return but with six true freshmen and three transfers, Team26 has has a whole new feel.

PRE-SEASON

Almost everyone around the softball world believes Oklahoma runs away with the title this season. But Alabama will be right in the thick of things.

Fouts and Tow have made several preseason All-American lists. Kilfoyl and Bailey Dowling could be possible honorees by the end of the season.

Fouts, Tow, and Kilfoyl have all been named to the 2022 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch List.

COACHES

RETURNING

The three-headed brain-trust of new Alabama Sports Hall of Fame inductee Patrick Murphy (24th season), Alyson Habetz (24th season), and Stephanie VanBrakle Prothro (eleventh season) are all back.

WELCOME BACK

Former Tide player Jadyn Spencer is back in Tuscaloosa as the Operations Coordinator. Former Bama catcher Ryan Iamurri is serving as a Volunteer Assistant Coach.

PITCHERS

DEPARTING

Sarah Cornell (graduated) and Krystal Goodman (graduated)

RETURNING

  • Montana Fouts RHP Sr. Grayson, KY - If you don’t know who this is, turn in your Gump card. Fouts is currently the best-known softball player in the world and a superstar of the sport.
  • Lexi Kilfoyl RHP Jr. Land O’ Lakes, FL - It feels like this junior has yet to reach her full potential. She showed up big in the post-season last year. If she can stay healthy, expect big things from her in the circle this year. And yes (sigh), we’ll probably see her get plenty of at bats as a designated hitter.
  • Jaala Torrence RHP So. Dothan, AL - Torrence was the Tide’s third pitcher and at times sparkled early in the 2021 campaign. However, something happened along the way and she seemed to lose her mojo.
  • Alex Salter RHP R-Fr. Fort Myers, FL - Redshirted.

NEW

  • None. If we learned anything last year, it was that six pitchers is way too many for a college softball team.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Montana and Kilfoyl will get the bulk of the work. Torrence and Salter will get some cupcake work to help them develop.

CATCHERS

DEPARTING

  • Bailey Hemphill (graduated)

RETURNING

  • C Abby Doerr Jr. Eugene, OR – Despite being a junior, Doerr has not grown into the position like she should have by now. She has had some shining moments including hitting a home run against Arizona in the World Series but has not performed well on a consistent basis.
  • 1B/C KJ Haney So. Douglasville, GA – Not primarily a catcher but she can fill in if needed.

NEW

  • C Ally Shipman Sr. Valencia, CA – Career .331 hitter, transferred from Tennessee. An excellent defensive catcher who should compliment the pitching staff well.
  • C Aubrey Barnhart Fr. Pleasant View, TN - 2020 Gatorade Tennessee Player of the Year. No. 3 in 2021 Extra Inning Softball class rankings. Two-time USA Junior Olympic Cup Champion. She could be the Tide catcher of the future.

PROJECTED STARTER

C - SHIPMAN

INFIELDERS

DEPARTING

  • 3B Maddie Morgan (graduated), SS Claire Jenkins (graduated), IF Taylor Clark (graduated), 1B Hemphill (graduated), Kyra Lockhart (graduated; plagued by injuries; assume she has retired from softball)

RETURNING

  • SS Bailey Dowling So. St. Joseph, IL - This fab freshman was ranked as the 2nd best prospect in the Extra Inning Elite 100 for the class of 2020. She came in and showed some flashes of excellence until a freak landing of her foot on first base tore her ACL/MCL and ended her freshman campaign. Coach Murphy said Dowling is back to 100 percent after the injury in March of 2021. Of her he said “I think she’s going to be one of the best hitters we’ve ever had here.”
  • 1B Kaylee Tow Gr. Madisonville, KY - Tow will be looked to as the team leader. She has found a home at first base but has had some issues defensively. Her bat is an undenaible asset. She can take over games with her bat and has first-team All-American potential.
  • 2B/3B/OF Savannah Woodard Jr.. Warrior, AL - Due to injuries to others, Woodard logged a lot of hours in 2021. The experience has helped develop her into a solid starter for the Tide.
  • 1B/C KJ Haney - utility player had some at bats but not much time in the field in 2021.

NEW

  • Ashley Prange Sr. New Palestine, IN - Ohio State transfer will likely anchor third base.
  • Jenna Lord Fr. Trussville, AL (previously Land O’ Lakes, FL) - Top 20 in Extra Inning Softball and Fastpitch News 2021 class rankings. 2020 Junior Olympic Cup Champion. She has chiefly played shortstop and catcher previous to Alabama.
  • Kali Heivilin Fr. Three Rivers, MI - 2021 Michigan Gatorade Softball Player of the Year set the state’s single-season home runs and runs scored records. She also has played shortstop and catcher.
  • Megan Bloodworth Fr. Cordele, GA - No. 10 in 2021 Extra Inning Softball class rankings. She has played shortstop.

PROJECTED STARTERS

Unless the freshmen prove too good to keep off the field, the infield should be led by upperclassmen.

1B - TOW
2B - WOODARD
SS - DOWLING
3B - PRANGE

OUTFIELDERS

DEPARTING

  • YIKES! Top three base-stealers Elissa Brown (graduated), Alexis Mack (graduated), KB Sides (transfer to Arkansas), and Kayla Davis (slowed by injuries; assume she has retired from softball)

RETURNING

  • Jenna Johnson Jr. Franklin, TN - After recovering from an early season injury, Johnson provided a spark upon her return.
  • Kat Grill So. Tuscaloosa, AL - Had a few starts, but mostly pinch-hitting and pitch-running duties. She is one of the more faster players on the team.

NEW

  • Dallis Goodnight Fr. Dacula, GA - Top-five player in 2021 class by Extra Inning Softball and FloSoftball. Top-ranked 2021 outfielder by FloSoftball
  • Jordan Stephens Fr. Tampa, FL - No. 15 in 2021 Extra Inning Softball class rankings.
  • M’Kay Gidley So. Tuscaloosa, AL (Hillcrest) - transfer from Shelton State.

PROJECTED STARTERS

It is little scary to think that Johnson is the only experienced starter in the outfield and she wasn’t even a full-time starter. We could see some of the freshmen infielders have a go at the outfield. Also, Tow has put in some innings in right field in the past.

LF - GRILL
CF - JOHNSON
RF - GOODNIGHT

SCHEDULE

The conference foes are #5/6 Florida, #18/19 Georgia, #20 Kentucky, #15/17 LSU, #9/10 Missouri, South Carolina, and Texas A&M. The Tide do not play Arkansas, Tennessee or Auburn during the regular season.

Aside from playing in the most competitive conference in the nation, Alabama will again have some tough non-conference games. Bama has one game each with #7/11 Arizona (road) and #5/6 Florida State (home). The Tide will also face #8/9 Texas for two games to be played in Tuscaloosa and two against always competitive #19/22 UL-Laffy in Louisiana. Bama also hosts a pair versus a blossoming #10/12 Virginia Tech team.

Alabama plays in the inaugural Sand Mountain Showdown versus Jacksonville State (March 30) at the brand-new Sand Mountain Park and Amphitheater in Albertville, AL. Sorry to say that tickets sold out in the blink of an eye.

The first game of the season will be against Southern Utah on Friday, February 11 at the Candrea Classic in Tucson, AZ.

#RollTide #Team26