Another season of Alabama softball is upon us as Patrick Murphy’s squad heads for the Alabama Gulf Coast for the first of five games this weekend.

The Crimson Tide kicks off the season in Mobile against the South Alabama Jaguars on Thursday. Following the game, they will head down to Gulf Shores to participate in the Sand Dollar Classic where they’ll take on Central Arkansas, Lamar, Penn State and Virginia Tech.

Head coach Patrick Murphy returns for his 20th season as the head skipper for Alabama softball needing just 13 wins to reach 1,000 wins in his Crimson Tide coaching tenure.

 

Pitching Depth

In addition to improving from the plate, one of the biggest keys for Alabama in 2018 may lie in finding a suitable number two pitcher behind Alexis Osorio.

Two new pitchers were added to the roster this year in junior college transfer Courtney Gettins and true freshman Madison Preston. Gettins grew up in New Zealand but excelled at Florida Southwestern as the NJCAA Division I National Pitcher of the Year as a freshman and led the country in wins as a sophomore.

Preston comes to Tuscaloosa from Centralia, Missouri, where she is the reigning Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year.

According to Murphy, Preston has performed well in spring practices and has a chance to surprise softball observers in her debut campaign in the crimson and white.

“Preston has done really well in scrimmages. She’s the 5-11 lefty from Missouri. I think she’s going to surprise a lot of people. Her ball moves. It’s a different look, 5-11 left handed side. It’s just fun to watch.” Murphy said.

 

Season-Opening Challenge in Mobile

During the course of Alabama softball history, one of the hallmarks for Patrick Murphy has been his non-conference scheduling.

For 2018, Alabama will face perennial NCAA Tournament participants in Washington, Florida State and Baylor in addition to teams such as Fordham, McNeese State and BYU from smaller conferences.

Thursday evening, the Crimson Tide could receive a stiff test from their season opening opponent in South Alabama.

The Jaguars feature five seniors on the roster including one of the top pitchers in the Sun Belt Conference in Mobile native Devin Brown.

Brown went 19-7 with 1.51 ERA and fanned 194 batters as a junior in 2017. Of her 19 wins, the Theodore High School alum recorded 12 shutouts and had seven outings with 10 or more strikeouts. Coming into Thursday, she was selected to USA Softball’s Top 50 Watch List for Collegiate Player of the Year.

South Alabama also returns four of their top five hitters including senior Haleigh Lowe. The Prattville native led the team with a .398 batting average and 19 stolen bases a season ago.

First pitch from Mobile Thursday night is at 6 PM.

 

College Softball Tidbits around Alabama

After a tumultuous offseason involving a coaching change, the Auburn Tigers make their 2018 debut Thursday against Marshall. Head coach Mickey Dean inherits a roster that includes the team’s top two pitchers in Kaylee Carlson and Makayla Martin. The duo combined for a 47-11 record along with 222 strikeouts in 2017. The Tigers will also entertain Furman, Wichita State and Tennessee Tech over six games in the Plainsman Invite.

Jacksonville State comes into the season as the favorite to possibly three-peat in the Ohio Valley Conference. Head coach Jana McGinnis’s squad features four seniors that have been integral in taking the Gamecocks to two straight NCAA regionals. JSU opens the 2018 season Friday against Army and will play Jacksonville University and UConn as part of the River City Leadoff in Jacksonville, Florida.

Alabama alum Mandy Burford fields one of her youngest squads in her seven seasons as Samford’s head coach. The Bulldogs have six freshman and just two seniors on the 17-person roster but do return the preseason SoCon Player of the Year in senior Shelby Maze. The Mortimer Jordan High School product finished the 2017 season as the SoCon leader in batting average (.423) and set a new single-season school record for hits with 90. The Bulldogs embark on the 2018 season Thursday evening against Louisiana-Lafayette while also taking on Illinois-Chicago, Evansville and Eastern Illinois on Friday and Saturday as part of the Mardi Gras Tournament.