A year ago, we lamented that the Crimson Tide softball team was starting the season against lesser fare while most of the elite teams were playing in the Clearwater Invitational. Well, we got our wish. Alabama will be facing off against some of the toughest softball competition in the nation over the next four days. While still early in the season, this tournament could be a fair barometer of who Team27 is.
- Thursday, Feb 16 vs Duke 12 p.m. CT - SEC Network
- Friday, Feb 17 vs UCLA 3 p.m. CT - ESPN2 - will start approximately 30 minutes following the conclusion of Florida State vs. Arkansas.
- Saturday, Feb 18 vs UCF 1:30 p.m. CT - ESPN+
- Saturday, Feb 18 vs Indiana 5 p.m. CT - ESPNU
- Sunday, Feb 19 vs Florida State 4 p.m. CT - ESPN
If you are new to college softball, you might think the Blue Devils are a pushover. Far from it. Coach Marissa Young has built a solid program in Durham. Duke finished 44-11 last season and second in the improving ACC. As the 12 seed, they won their Regional over Georgia, but fell to eventual WCWS Final Four participant UCLA in the Supers.
This year’s version of the Blue Devils is 3-2 after a tournament in Irvine, CA but the competition has been tough. The two losses were to #14 Washington (score: 3-4) and the behemoth that is Oklahoma (0-4). The wins were over #17 Stanford, always dangerous Liberty, and a run rule win over San Jose State.
The 13-time National Champs were 51–10 last year and have started this season 7-0. Six of their games last weekend came at home versus some doormats but the Bruins outscored their opponents 59-3 with four run-rule games. That is 9.8 runs per game. They are ranked 2/2/3/4.
The Bruins are led by All-American P/1B Megan Faraimo. Others to watch are CF Maya Brady, OF Aaliyah Jordan, C Sharlize Palacios, and P Brooke Yanez.
Another team not to be overlooked is this UCF team. Coach Cindy Ball-Malone took a stagnant program and turned them into a national power. They were 49-14 a season ago and were eventually eliminated by the Sooners in the Supers last spring. They are currently 3-2 with close losses to #10 Georgia and #23 Mizzou. They are ranked 16/18/18/19.
3B Jada Cody was named to D1Softball’s Preseason All-America First Team. She hit .371 with 15 home runs, 15 doubles, and 3 triples a year ago. Big things are expected of OF Chloe Evans who transferred over from Minnesota where she hit .318 with 11 dingers and 46 RBI last season.
The unranked Hoosiers finished 2022 at 27-22. IU has a bit of a location advantage in that they began the season last weekend in Clearwater in a different invitational tournament where they went 3-1. The one defeat came at the hands of Auburn by the score of 0-9. The familiarity could work in their favor as they soldier on through on the same fields this week.
Oh, Lawd. These guys have the Tide’s number. The ‘Noles have defeated Bama five straight times including the devastating double-elimination in the 2021 WCWS. FSU is ranked 3/4/5/7 and are among the favorites to return to OKC in June.
The Seminoles are 6-1 with a shocking upset by Longwood 4-5 in which FSU’s back-up pitchers got rocked early in the game. The ‘Noles have SEVEN pitchers.
It seems like FSU pitcher Kathryn Sandercock has been around forever. She is back for another season along with Danielle Watson.
2B Devin Flaherty (.355, 12 doubles, two triples, 31 RBI, six home runs), 3B Kalei Harding (.304, 11 doubles, 15 home runs, 54 RBI), 1B Mack Leonard (.375, 15 doubles, 49 RBI, eight home runs), and LF Kaley Mudge (.358, nine doubles, three triples, four home runs, 26 RBI) are all dangerous at the plate.
After last weekend’s poor showing, the Tide tumbled to #12/12/15/15 in the polls.
It will be interesting to see how The Gut® sets his pitching rotation for the five games. It would not be surprising to see Montana Fouts pitch is every game.
Friday is Bailey Hemphill’s birthday. Maybe Team27 will channel some of her energy.