I tried. I really tried to come into this season with some positivity. Even after Alabama factions chased off some of the most promising players, even though Patrick Murphy did not go out and find a true No. 2/heir apparent pitcher for the Tide, and even though Murphy kept the first base cheerleader gainfully employed, I still wanted to try and put a good spin on Team27 coming into the season. But it’s early February and my inner Jules Winnfield is already making its way to the surface.
It was a mere two years ago that Alabama softball began their season 19-0 and would later win the SEC tournament. From there they would romp their way through the Regional and Supers. These feats were followed by perhaps the greatest Women’s College World Series pitching performance of all time. Bama Ace Montana Fouts would toss a perfect game against vaunted UCLA. But it was all downhill from there. And here we are now. Losing at home to tiny little Lehigh on opening day.
GAME 1: LEHIGH 7, ALABAMA 4
Yes, folks. That is not a typo. A team that the Crimson Tide usually no-hits battered the home team for 12 hits and seven runs.
This game started out well enough when Ashley Prange blistered the second pitch of the game and the season over the center field wall for an early 2-0 lead. However, the SkyHawks would not be flustered so easily and came back to tie it with single runs in the second and fourth.
In the bottom of 4th, Ally Shipman led off with a double and it was North Alabama transfer Emma Broadfoot’s turn to hit a two-run jack. But four runs were all the Tide could muster against their 5,000-6,000 undergraduate opponents. On the other side, it was a veritable carousel of SkyHawks rounding the basepaths.
Patrick Murphy’s Gut® sent former Michigan infielder Lauren Esman to the circle to throw her first pitches in a real game since March 1, 2020 - 35 months ago. In Game 1, Esman gave up six hits and two earned runs through the first four innings. After Lehigh tagged her for a seventh hit on the first pitch to lead off the fifth, she was lifted in favor of Jaala Torrence. Gasoline on the fire. Lehigh would homer two batters later and the game was tied again.
Meanwhile, the Tide offense could only manage piddly little singles here and there with runners getting stranded in each of the final three innings.
In the top of the seventh, Torrence yielded two singles on the first three pitches. Almost nobody within the 205 area code expected the need for Montana Fouts to pitch both games on Friday, but in she came. Lehigh would load the bases on a single and follow that up with a bases clearing double and a 7-4 advantage.
Bama put two runners on base in the bottom of the frame but Ally Shipman and Bailey Dowling could not come up with RBIs.
Torrence (0-1) got the loss but this was a team loss and an embarrassing one at that.
GAME 2: ALABAMA 8, GEORGIA SOUTHERN 2
Montana Fouts was back in the circle for the nightcap and duplicated a disturbing trend from last season. For the most part, she was lights out fantastic (16 strikeouts). But then there is that one little hiccup. With two out is the fourth, three straight Eagles reached base on a single, single, and 2-run double. If this had been a game against a power picher, it could have easily been a 2-0 defeat.
After a slow start, the Tide scored three in the fourth highlighted by Larissa Preuitt’s two-RBI double. The freshman knocked in another run in the fifth with a single.
Kali Heivilin would homer to cap a five run fifth inning and that is all the Crimson Tide would need to earn their first victory of the season.
GAME 3: ALABAMA 13, GEORGIA SOUTHERN 1 - Run Rule 5 innings
On a miserable rainy Saturday with a sparse crowd and the rest of Tide nation watching the Bama-Aubie basketball game, the Tide finally broke out the bats. Though many of their runs came benefit of the opponent’s six walks, two hit-by-pitched batters, two errors, and a few fielding mistakes not ruled errors.
Bama had nine hits with the biggest one being Kenleigh Cahalan’s inside-the-parker with two on. It is the freshman’s first career college home run. Bama had four stolen bases against the overmatched Eagles.
Alex Salter got the start and lasted three innings, giving up a double and a single that produced an earned run. Torrence pitched a one-two-three fourth and perhaps sensing that Game 4 would not be played, Fouts finished off the Eagles with a pair of strikeouts in the fifth.
GAME 4: LEHIGH vs ALABAMA - Cancelled due to godawful weather
No chance for revenge for the Alabama. The Tide has never beaten the SkyHawks in softball.
*** Lollipop unicorn rainbow chasers, stop reading here lest ye get your feelings hurt! ***
- With no disrespect to Georgia Southern, it was clear coming into the weekend that defending Patriot League Champs Lehigh was the stronger of the two opponents Alabama would face. Yet, The Gut® chose to send out his mad scientist pitching experiment into the fray to start against the SkyHawks and utilize his All-American super senior against the team that won 13 games a season ago. Bra. Vo.
- There will be much self-congratulations and sunshine pumping from the Bama softball cult for having a “winning” weekend. But this was a disgraceful display. No shutouts. No no-hitters. And a 2-1 record against “cupcakes”.
- Back by unpopular demand: The Gut® let his starting pitcher in Game 1 hit for herself. Esman (.263, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 9 BB, 33 K in 2022) had an infield pop up and a single before being lifted in the fifth.
- In the first two games, The Gut® went back to that outdated “second leadoff hitter” strategy of batting a fast runner, in this instance freshman Kristen White, ninth in the order. She did not steal a base or score a run.
- Why did Murphy bring back KJ Haney for another season of sitting on the bench? The junior did not play this weekend.
- Alabama’s team ERA is 3.68. Esman, Torrence and Fouts gave up three earned runs each. Salter gave up one in 3.0 innings.
- The Friday’s loss to Lehigh was Alabama’s first to open the season since 2010, which was a 2-1 loss to Missouri. The Tigers were still Big 12 at the time. The rolltide archives are incomplete, but the loss is probably the first Alabama opening day defeat to a non-Power team.
- Lehigh amassed 28 hits and scored 15 runs in the troika of gmaes. Their assistant coach serves as the team’s hitting coach. Hmmm. A hitting coach. What a concept!
- In Saturday’s one game with the Tide up only 4-1, Shipman was hit on the foot by a pitch. The Bama catcher is a pretty good baserunner and stole a base earlier in that same game. However, pinch-running specialist M’Kay Gidley pinch ran for her. It is unclear if this was a strategic move or a cautionary one with her foot getting hit. Thanks, local Bama press for following up on that one!
- Faith Hensley was supposed to be the crown jewel of the Tide transfers. However, the reigning MAC Player of the Year did not play in the first game against Lehigh. She batted in sixth and then ninth in the order in the two Georgia Southern games, earning one single and sac-fly RBI in six plate appearances.
- Bailey Dowling did not play a single inning in the field. She served as designated hitter in all three games. No local media member bothered to ask Murphy about this development.
- RBR’s favorite walk-on M’Kay Gidley got her first career at bat but alas struck out.
- Broadfoot’s home run was her only hit of the weekend.
- As a Tide fan, you have to be feeling despondent about this pitching staff after Fouts.
TRYING, RINGO. TRYING REEEAL HARD TO BE THE SHEPHERD
- Murphy appears to be going for a more aggressive approach at the plate. Tide batters walked only two times and struck out twice in the first two games. They struck out twice on Saturday but took six base-on-balls.
- No errors committed by the Tide in the three games.
- Prange had a slick unassisted double play in Game 3 in which she snared a line drive and then dove to tag third base to double off a GSU base runner.
- Bama hit .380 over the weekend with four home runs and seven stolen bases in as many attempts.
1B Emma Broadfoot (3 games)
2B Kenleigh Cahalan (3 games)
SS Kali Heivilin (3 games)
3B Ashley Prange (3 games)
LF Jenna Johnson (2 games)
LF Faith Hensley (1 game)
CF Kristen White (2 games)
CF Faith Hensley (1 game)
RF Larissa Preuitt (2 games)
RF Jordan Stephens (1 game)
C Ally Shipman (3 games)
DP Bailey Dowling (3 games)
- HEIVILIN - 5 for 8 (.625), 3 RUNS, 4 RBI, 1 HR, 3 SB, 0 K.
- PRANGE - 5 for 10 (.500), 4 RUNS, 4 RBI, 1 SB, 1 HR, 0 K
UPCOMING ALABAMA SCHEDULE
Things are about to get real. Alabama heads south to the Clearwater Invitational to face some of the best college softball teams in the nation. They will be lucky to win three.
- Thursday, Feb 16 vs Duke 12 p.m. CT
- Friday, Feb 17 vs UCLA 3 p.m. CT
- Saturday, Feb 18 vs UCF 1:30 p.m. CT
- Saturday, Feb 18 vs Indiana 5 p.m. CT
- Sunday, Feb 19 vs Florida State 4 p.m. CT
How many games will Alabama win at the Clearwater Invitational?
This poll is closed
The opening weekend was a blip, just knocking the rust off: 5
Bama is still Bama: 4
3 sounds right
It’s going to be a long year: 2
It’s going to be a really long year: 1
I have lost all faith in Murph and his Gut®: 0