[ED.NOTE: It’s summer and off-season. So we are a little late on this report but it needed to be said. Lollipop unicorn rainbow chasers, stop reading here lest ye get your feelings hurt!]
With the recent graduation of Ally Shipman and transfer of Aubrey Barnhart, Alabama was down to just Marlie Giles when it came to options at catcher. With rising sophomore Giles hitting .204 overall with no doubles, two homers, and seven RBI on 49 at bats (.120, 3-25, 1 HR, 2 RBI versus SEC, Duke, and Northwestern), it was clear that the Crimson Tide needed second catcher - preferably one with a little pop - to at least drive competition.
Many many excellent candidates were available in the Transfer Portal for Coach Patrick Murphy to choose from. And one-by-one, they opted for other locations.
Ragin’ Cajun baby!!❤️— Sam Roe (@uhohsamroe) June 28, 2023
The Duo is back!! pic.twitter.com/uFhWk48kHp
more on the transfer of Anna Wohlers from Depaul.... last season she started in 51 games as a SO, can play either C or 3B, and batted .364 with 12 HRs. A good player out of the portal for Auburn that can help in several roles .— #WarDamnSoftball (@WarDamnSoftball) June 21, 2023
more on transfer C Amelia Lech from Maryland... 2 years to play, started 53 games last year, led team in HRs, BBs, slugging, and RBIs.... also was fantastic in the field with a .989 fielding %..... this is a really nice pickup for the Tigers— #WarDamnSoftball (@WarDamnSoftball) June 22, 2023
Her long resume includes:— Carolina Softball (@UNCSoftball) June 24, 2023
• 2023 Sun Belt All-Conference First Team
• 2023 NFCA Third Team All-American
• 2023 https://t.co/7wr0FYWp7e Second Team All-American
• 2023 Sun Belt Conference Batting Triple Crown Winner (batting Avgerage, Home Runs, RBI)#GoHeels https://t.co/lTNAxVBZNm pic.twitter.com/QbkB1m1Whq
Former Oklahoma C Jocelyn Erickson is transferring to Florida.— Justin McLeod (@justfactsmaam) July 13, 2023
As a freshman in 2023, Erickson batted .323 with 10 doubles, 7 home runs, and 31 RBIs. pic.twitter.com/cxHCEyvkEi
Even at the risk of being a back-up to Kinzie Hansen, who won the Johnny Bench Award for the Best Catcher in softball this past season, prospective catcher transfers were heading elsewhere.
Former Furman C Riley Ludlam is transferring to Oklahoma.— Justin McLeod (@justfactsmaam) July 6, 2023
An All-Region honoree in 2023, Ludlam hit .372 w/ 10 home runs and 41 RBIs on the year.
She owns a career .309 batting average, 25 home runs, and 117 RBIs. pic.twitter.com/CC8I1eeSiB
As for Alabama, Murphy chose to offer Texas A&M’s Riley Valentine.
This freshman was a part-time starter but became the back-up backstop for the Aggies by the middle of the 2023 season. All the reports out of the U of A SID trumpeted at how Valentine hit SIX home runs and 20 RBI! What they aren’t telling you is she had one round-tripper and two RBI in SEC play (all vs Arky). Her season batting average was .188 (12-64) overall and .111 (3-27) against conference foes.
Like many freshmen in non-conference play, Valentine started out strong. In her first ten games of the Aggies 2023 campaign, she was hitting .316 with 4 homers and 13 RBI. I assume this is about the time when Murphy dozed off while watching video of her season at the plate. When he woke up, Valentine hit a 3 RBI dinger in the 5th inning against the Longhorns in the Texas Regional - a game the Aggs lost 11-5 and would end their season.
What Murphy missed in between was the young catcher struggling into a 14 game hitless streak in which she was 0-19 with 3 BB and 11 K. At one point during her hot streak in February, Valentine made nine straight starts. But once her production dropped off, she spent a good deal of time on the bench.
On the bright side, Valentine appears to be a capable defender. She made only one error and one pass ball. She threw out three of six stolen base attempts but with the caveat that she did have a smaller sample size than most starting catchers.
It is unclear what Murphy saw in this young player. Valentine is from Phoenix, AZ. Alabama just so happens to have an incoming pitcher, Jocelyn Briski, arriving in the fall who is also from Phoenix. Though they went to different high schools, they undoubtedly know each other. This sure sounds like another instance of Murphy listening to his Gut®.