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Alabama Softball Adds Catcher Transfer

Patrick Murphy must have had another Gut® feeling.

Belly Of A Working Man
The Gut® strikes!
Photo by Priyanka Parashar/Mint via Getty Images

[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.

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.

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®.

#RollTide #Team28