Across the Diamond: SEC Play Begins against Missouri
One month after setting sail on the 2019 season, Alabama softball prepares to open Southeastern Conference play this weekend as the Missouri Tigers come in for a three-game weekend series.
Two Midweek Wins
The Crimson Tide took care of business in their pair of midweek games defeating South Alabama 5-2 and Mississippi Valley State 7-0.
From the plate, Bailey Hemphill homered in both games while Caroline Hardy swatted a solo shot against Mississippi Valley State. For Hemphill, both round trippers provided early momentum for the team. Freshman Kayla Davis saw action Wednesday night and laced an run-scoring double to left field.
On the flip side, Alabama's batters struck out six times against MVSU. During his visit with Travis Reier on Southern Fried Sports, head coach Patrick Murphy mentioned a few areas of concern that he noticed from the two games.
"I just wish that we would have scored more runs. We had a couple of opportunities. We had way too many strikeouts. The two-hole was 0-4 with three strikeouts which is not good." Murphy said.
Division One's Only Remaining Undefeated Team
Following Florida State's loss to Grand Canyon, Alabama is the only team remaining without a loss on the season in Division I.
During his conversation with Travis Reier, Patrick Murphy summarized what he told his team in the clubhouse including how the pitching has excelled through the first 22 games of the year.
"Look, this is the preseason (non-conference games). I said, 'You've done everything that we wanted you to do. We only had one poorly pitched start game and then the offense scored 16 runs that day.' Every other 21 games, we've had a quality start that kept us in the game which allowed us to win the game." Murphy said.
Lead-Off Batter in the Order
In recent weeks, Murphy has experimented with numerous options at the lead-off spot in the order including Kaylee Tow, Elissa Brown and KB Sides. Alabama's head coach discussed some of those options beginning with Tow.
"Tow has been awesome getting on base. She's got 21 walks, on-base (percentage) is like over .500. So she's been legit." Murphy said.
Going into SEC play, junior Elissa Brown has a .321 batting average, a .379 on-base percentage, 17 stolen bases and has only five strikeouts on the season. However, Brown has only walked four times this year. After looking at her overall profile as a slap hitter, Murphy examined how he would game plan for the junior if he was coaching against her.
"Look, if she gets a hit, it's probably going to be a single so don't walk her. Make her put the ball in play." Murphy said.
KB Sides lead off against South Alabama going 0-3. With limited opportunities at the top of the order, Alabama's head coach talked about where she is best suited in the order.
"KB (Sides), tried her a couple of times but her on-base (percentage) is worse than Elissa's, so I think she's better suited for the two-hole." Murphy said.
With that in mind, Murphy detailed what the top spot of the order could look like going forward.
"I need to say one or the other, you're going to be the lead-off and is probably going to be Tow." Murphy said.
Missouri Scouting Report
Heading into their first SEC series, Missouri has played all 18 of their games away from home and has an 11-7 record.
The Tigers have faced played 10 games against power conference opponents with two wins over Kansas and additional victories against Arizona State, Utah and Iowa. The losses have come against Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington and Louisville.
Senior Madi Norman leads the pitching staff with a 6-2 record along with a 1.23 ERA and 42 strikeouts.
From the plate, five batters have at least 10 RBIs with sophomore Kimberly Wert pacing the offense with six round trippers and 16 RBIs.
Alabama and Missouri will have 11 pitchers available for the weekend. With the Crimson Tide having five pitchers and a short turnaround between the Mississippi Valley State game and the SEC opener, Patrick Murphy plans on using all of the options that he has at his disposal.
"We're going to take advantage of what we have, and we're going to mix and match and watch film to see who can't hit a lefty, who can't hit a rise ball, whatever it might be because we're going to be very strategic." Murphy said.
Marathon not a Sprint
While getting off to a good start is usually crucial toward reaching your goals of a championship, the bigger picture always involves the grind of the season and maintaining consistency of performance throughout the season.
Although the weekend against Missouri is important for Alabama, Murphy stressed the importance of maintaining perspective when it comes to the 24-game SEC schedule.
"It's a marathon and not a sprint because it's 24 games, and nobody is going to get too high, and nobody is going to get too low, and it's going to be the most consistent team for the next nine weeks that's going to come home with a ring." Murphy said.
Before SEC play gets underway, Alabama's head coach reiterated how eager he is to get conference play underway.
"I can't wait to get started because I really like this team." Murphy said.
Due to the potential for stormy weather Saturday, Alabama and Missouri will play a twin bill Friday and a single game Sunday.
Alabama vs. Missouri (DH) 4:30 PM
Alabama vs. Missouri 1 PM