“Concentration is a fine antidote to anxiety.”
~ Jack Nicklaus
“When you’re really trying to zone in and keep your focus, you don’t want to have any unnecessary distractions during this point of the season.”
~ Steph Curry
The Crimson Tide travel to lovely downtown Huntington, West Virginia to play a pair of games and salute a legend.
- Tuesday, April 18 at Liberty 12 p.m. CT
- Tuesday, April 18 vs Marshall 2:30 p.m. CT
As of post, the Marshall game appears on the ESPN+ schedule but the Liberty game does not.
It is unclear when or why Patrick Murphy started the tradition of playing away games near his players’ hometowns, but it is a nice way to honor a player who has given so much to the program. Last year, the Tide took a midweek trip to Bowling Green, KY which is close to Madisonville - a small Kentucky town where where Kaylee Tow grew up - and home to the Western Kentucky University campus.
Legendary UNC basketball coach Dean Smith used to employ a similar custom for his players. Some of you may recall the time the Tar Heels traveled to Tuscaloosa to honor Eutaw, AL native Pete Chilcutt.
This year, the tribute goes to Montana Fouts. Huntington, WV is the home city for Marshall Unversity and a 30 mile drive to Fouts’s hometown of Grayson, KY.
Alabama lost that game to WKU last year, a defeat which triggered a downward spiral into a disastrous first round loss in the SEC Tournament and a defeat to Stanford in the Tuscaloosa Regional. [For the record, UNC lost too.]
While this trip is well-meaning, it is a misguided one that can damage a team’s psyche. Last year it was suspected that the quick turnaround after a wearisome three-game series at Texas A&M was draining on many Tide players so late in the season. And while the celebration was probably a joyful one for Tow, it likely made many others homesick.
Fortunately this year, the Tide is coming off a sweep of Mississippi State. However after a weekend in Starkville, the team gets only one night in Tuscaloosa before being swept off to middle America for a Fouts family reunion and then a double-header against a pair of dangerous mid-major teams.
After these two games, the Tide heads back to T-town to prep for a huge series with #22 Auburn starting on Friday.
One thought is that maybe Alabama should have done this earlier in the season. The problem is West Virginia tends to get a little bit of snow in February and March.
THE POTENTIALLY UGLY
While Marshall has not played many power teams, they are 36-5 overall and have an 11-2 record in the Sun Belt Conference.
The university is expecting a capacity crowd. The Thundering Herd REALLY want this win and will likely be throwing their best pitcher at the Tide. Redshirt Senior Sydney Nester is 20-4 with a 0.99 ERA - good for ninth best in the nation. The team ERA is an outstanding 1.41 which is fourth best.
Catcher Autumn Owen leads the nation in RBI with 60 and is tied for second most dingers at 16. This goes with her .478 batting average. The team batting average of .358 is second only to Oklahoma.
Over the last couple of years, the Flames are traditionally one of the tougher and scarier mid-major teams. They always have one of the more aggressive schedules in the country willing to play anyone, anywhere. This season, they have already played (and lost to) the likes of Oklahoma, UCLA, Tennessee, and Washington that led to them take a beating early in the season. However, they have rebounded with winning streaks of 15 and seven. They are currently 28-15 and 12-3 in the ASUN and have won two straight Conference Championships.
The Flames will likely start junior Karlie Keeney (19-6, 1.77 ERA). Her 19 wins are tied for third most. She is one of the few pitchers with more innings pitched (165.2) than Fouts (153.2).
Caroline Hudson leads the team with 10 round-trippers, 11 two-baggers and 33 knocked in. Seven Liberty starters are hitting .294 or higher.
Also of note, former Tide outfielder Savannah Woodard plays for Liberty. She is hitting (gulp) .186 with ten errors.
This midweek side trip:
This poll is closed
No big deal. It’s Montana!
Well-meaning but risky.
Will doom the season.