Alabama Softball is set to open their 20th season in program history this weekend against Fordham, #17 UCF, Rutgers, #19 James Madison and Liberty as part of the UCF Classic in Orlando, Florida.

Alabama opens the season with three of their five weekend opponents coming off an NCAA regional appearance last season. Fordham won the Atlantic 10 Championship, UCF won the American Athletic Conference title en route to a 50-win season while James Madison won the Colonial Athletic Association regular season title and hosted a regional.

It’s one of the toughest opening season tests for Alabama under Patrick Murphy as James Madison and UCF both come in ranked in the top 20 of the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Poll. The last time the Crimson Tide faced two ranked teams on an opening weekend was in 2003.

Fordham and UCF could provide an early challenge to the Crimson Tide on opening day as both teams have strong senior starters returning this season. Fordham southpaw Rachel Gillen comes off a stellar 2015 campaign as she was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Atlantic 10 Championship. Gillen led the conference in wins (24), strikeouts (250) and innings pitched (213.1).

A case could be made that Alabama will face one of the best pitchers they’ll see all year long in UCF senior pitcher Shelby Turnier. Turnier earned 1st team All-America honors in 2015 and is a member of the 2016 USA Softball Top 50 Watch List. She led the country in ERA with a 0.87 ERA last season.

With Alabama going against at least two quality starters, the Tide’s offense will have to find ways to manufacture runs with a heavy reliance on All-American Haylie McCleney's ability to reach base. This weekend will also give fans a glimpse to see how sophomore Alexis Osorio can follow up her stellar freshman campaign, how well a healthy Sydney Littlejohn can pitch from the circle and the chance to see freshman pitcher Madi Moore make her collegiate debut.

Play-by-play coverage for Alabama Softball can be found all season long on 95.3 the Bear with pregame coverage beginning 10 minutes before first pitch. Tide 99.1 will air Saturday’s contest against James Madison with first pitch scheduled for 3:30 PM.


College Softball Notes Around Alabama:

-Auburn's Marcy Harper and Rachael Walters combine for a no-hitter in a 9-0 Tigers win over Appalachian State in 5 innings Thursday night

-#25 South Alabama shutout UAB 4-0 in the season opener for both teams

-UAB, South Alabama and Samford will participate in the Sand Dollar Classic in Gulf Shores but not play each other in the tournament