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First Pitch: Alabama Softball Plays Five in Atlanta

The Crimson Tide begins season 28.

NCAA Softball: NCAA Women’s College World Series-Tennessee vs Alabama
Alabama outfielder Kristen White.
Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

A new era of Alabama softball gets under way in Atlanta at the home of Georgia Tech in the Buzz Classic. Gone is the hype of Montanamania for the Crimson Tide, but these ladies still have “Alabama” stitched across the fronts of their jerseys. The Yeller Jackets are expecting big crowds with many games having standing room only.

SCHEDULE

  • Thursday, Feb 8 Villanova 5 p.m. CT
  • Friday, Feb 9 Longwood 10 a.m. CT
  • Friday, Feb 9 Georgia Tech 3 p.m. CT
  • Saturday, Feb 10 Longwood 12:30 p.m. CT
  • Saturday, Feb 10 Georgia Tech 3 p.m. CT

HOW TO WATCH... ALLEGEDLY

The two games vs Georgia Tech will air on ACC Network Extra (ACC’s streaming platform). The other games do not have a platform unless some industrious fan does it on their own.

GEORGIA TECH

The YJs were 26-27 last season with a ugmo 7-17 ACC record. They are led by former GT star Aileen Morales who is entering her seventh season as head coach at Tech. There was a time when the Jackets had a strong Top 25 program, but they have struggled since winning the ACC in 2012. As a sophomore in 2023, Madison Dobbins hit .336. Sara Beth Allen belted 13 home runs and tallied 35 RBI. The top two pitchers, Blake Neleman (11-11, 3.95) and Chandler Dennis (13-9, 4.03), are back.

VILLANOVA

Who knew this Philadelphia college had a softball team? The Wildcats were 37-22 last season and won the Big East regular season (18-6). However, they were upset by Seton Hall in the conference championship and did not make the softball tournament. They played a competitive schedule against teams like Stanford (two 0-3 losses), Auburn (two L), UNC (W), Wisky (one run L), and Boston College (split 2 games). The ‘Cats return many starters including Big EAST POY Tess Cites (.378, 7 HR, 45 RUNS, 45 RBI) and Ava Franz (.356, 8 HR, 32 RUNS, 32 RBI). Kat Gallant (15-6, 2.85) is the top returning pitcher.

LONGWOOD

Longwood University is a public university in Farmville, Virginia that was founded in 1839. They have been mostly anonymous in sports until around the early 2010s when the school made a concerted effort to raise the profile of the athletics department. Led by 2023 Big South Coach of the Year Megan Brown since 2020, the Lancers have won the Big South regular season in 2015, 2016, 2019, 2022, and 2023. Like Villanova, the were upset in the conference tournament the last two campaigns and did not make the “Big Dance Diamond”. Last season, LU famously upset Florida State 5-4 in Tallahassee early in the season and later upset a ranked Duke team. Also in 2023, the Lancers lost a pair of games to Alabama and Montana Fouts 5-0 and 8-0 in games played in Tuscaloosa. Their best offensive player, Jaden Pone, transferred to Ole Miss. Beyond her, Longwood returns their next three best hitters. The top two hurlers are back as well.

WEATHER

Atlanta is expecting highs in 60s but intermittent showers on Friday evening and into Saturday.

LOWDOWN

Although these are away games, the Crimson Tide should have a good showing of fans. On paper, they will face a struggling ACC program and two non-power teams that historically beat other non-Ps but have a hard time against the Big Girls. Regardless, any of these teams could jump up and bite Alabama on the arses if they are not careful.

These early games are a time to experiment and get a better grasp of who will be the major contributors on the diamond. The Tide should sweep but 4-1 seems more likely as they figure out who they are as a team.

#RollTide #Team28