Peyton Grantham wasn’t supposed to be in this senior class. She wasn’t supposed to be making a trip home to open the 2018 season.
Alabama softball’s third baseman is just the second fifth-year senior to come up through the program in its history – and the other, Amanda Locke, planned to redshirt as a freshman from the very start. Grantham, on the other hand, sustained a knee injury that forced her to sit out her second season with the Crimson Tide.
As a result, she’s part of a six-member senior class that came together after only three were signed four years ago. Grantham fell back into the class by sitting out a year, Sydney Booker joined as a transfer and Rachel Bobo walked on after the original class of pitcher Alexis Osorio, catcher Carrigan Fain and second baseman Demi Turner had all signed.
“The sophomore year when I got hurt it was kind of like I was still in the sophomore class,” Grantham said. “Then the next year, which would have been my junior year, I kind of fell back into the sophomore role again and they took me in.”
To head coach Patrick Murphy, six is the magic number. Alabama’s 2012 national championship team had six seniors.
“The best teams we’ve had have had six seniors,” Murphy said. “I don’t know why, but it’s been historically – one year we won 29 in a row with six seniors – so it’s been a good number for us.”
Alabama will open its season Thursday at South Alabama in Mobile and then play Central Arkansas, Lamar, Penn State and Virginia Tech in the Sand Dollar Classic in Gulf Shores over the weekend. Grantham’s hometown is proximate to both.
“Daphne is literally almost right in the middle of South Alabama and Gulf Shores,” she said. “My dad lives in Orange Beach, so it kind of works out.”
Murphy habitually schedules a road trip for every player to play at home, or at least as close to it as possible. He took Alabama to Gulf Shores when Grantham was a sophomore, but the injury kept her out that season. She feels fortunate to get another homecoming.
“We went down my sophomore year and that was the year I tore my ACL,” she said. “I mean, it was great to see everyone then, but to not be on the field was a hard thing. Getting to go down there again is really special.”
Alabama is coming off a 46-18 season that saw it fall one victory short of a fourth straight trip to the Women’s College World Series. Murphy is relying on Grantham and the other five seniors to set the tone for this campaign, and is already leaning on his only fifth-year player.
“More than a couple times, I’ll say, ‘You’ve been here five years, you tell them.’ So she’s been a good sounding board for us because she’s experienced a lot,” Murphy said. “I think she adds a lot of good insight, especially when we get on people. She’ll come back around and say, ‘This is why he said that, you know, be worried if he doesn’t talk to you. If he doesn’t say anything to you he’s given up on you.’ I know she’s said that to a couple of kids. She’s like another coach, really.”
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-0224.