2016 Alabama Softball Season Preview [Audio]
With a thrilling football season in the history books, Alabama Softball is ready to embark on their 20th season in program history this week.
Much like the early years of Alabama Football, Alabama put SEC softball on the map with ten appearances in Oklahoma City and the SEC’s first ever national title in 2012. Coming into 2016, Alabama has notched 960 wins in program history with 890 of those wins coming under Patrick Murphy. Both the 1,000 win milestone in program history and 900 career win mark for Murphy are in sight this season.
Coming off back-to-back appearances in the Women’s College World Series, the Crimson Tide looks to make the 20th season in program history a memorable one with a dozen players returning from 2015. Among the returning players are two of the top players in the SEC in sophomore pitcher Alexis Osorio and senior outfielder Haylie McCleney. Both players are on the 2016 USA Softball Player of the Year Top 50 Watch List.
Patrick Murphy also noted his team’s versatility during his appearance on the Gary Harris Show.
“(Marisa) Runyon could play four positions in the infield. Chandler Dare can play six positions, all three outfield and three in the infield. I’ve got two really good catchers. We’ve got two good first basemen this year. And I told them, I said, 'Everybody in this room is going to win a game for us this year. I have no doubt about that. You just have to be ready for your opportunity, and when your opportunity comes, you take advantage of it, and that’s how you get more playing time.'”
Two of the leading pitchers in the SEC return to the circle for Alabama in Alexis Osorio and Sydney Littlejohn. Both Osorio and Littlejohn recorded earned run averages below 2.00. Osorio took home 2015 SEC Freshman of the Year and second team All-America honors in posting a 22-9 record last season. Littlejohn underwent ankle surgery in the off-season and is expected to be fully healthy this season. Despite playing below 100 percent in 2015, Littlejohn tossed perfect games against Eastern Kentucky and Ole Miss.
Alabama will face another challenging schedule over the course of the season. Sixteen teams on the Crimson Tide schedule appeared in an NCAA regional with three making it to Oklahoma City. The road through the SEC won’t be forgiving as nine SEC teams are ranked in the top 25 with 11 conference teams receiving votes in at least one preseason poll.
The most challenging stretch of games for the Crimson Tide comes in a three week stretch beginning with the SEC opening series at LSU on March 11 and concluding with the first weekend series in April at two-time defending national champion Florida on April 3. In between those two SEC road trips is a non-conference trip to Fullerton, California, to play in the Easton Tournament against Cal-State Fullerton, Grand Canyon, DePaul, New Mexico and Oklahoma along with the SEC opening home series against 12th ranked Missouri.
Alabama opens the season Friday at 1 PM Central in the UCF Classic against Fordham.