When you get to Rhoads Stadium to check out the 2019 Alabama softball team, be sure to bring a roster.
There will be a lot of change-ups, and not just from the pitcher’s circle.
With the loss of six seniors, including the middle infield, and a starter who accounted for almost half the team’s innings pitched in 2018, the Crimson Tide will be testing out several players in different positions to find the right fit.
“We are going to play musical chairs in practice,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. “We had four-year starter at second (Demi Turner), a four-year starter and third (Peyton Grantham) and a three-year starter at shortstop (Sydney Booker).
“They were guarantees.”
They are also all gone. Now Alabama has to regroup and shuffle a few pieces around.
“We have a very athletic team. It’s going to be a lot of fun to mix and match.”
The Crimson Tide, which started spring practice Wednesday, finished 36-20 overall and 12-12 in the SEC last season. Its opener is Feb. 8-10 in the Troy Tournament.
Alabama does return some stability in utility player Bailey Hemphill, outfielder Kaylee Tow, catcher Reagan Dykes, outfielder Elissa Brown and infielder Merris Schroder.
“We have a lot of new people this year, so one focus is getting everyone working together and acclimated a little bit,” said Hemphill, who led Alabama with 13 home runs and 48 RBIs last season. “Our team chemistry is really good. We have a good variety — we got transfers in, some freshmen, the junior class grew a little bit. We got all new pitchers. A lot of new faces, so it’s going to be fun.”
One of those new faces is freshman Skylar Wallace, an infielder from Woodstock, Georgia, who won multiple all-state and all-region honors.
“She is the best athlete in the state of Georgia,” Murphy said. “She is a hell of an athlete. Her intangibles is her competitiveness, which I absolutely love. She is a refuse to lose kind of kid and we need that around here.”
Other newcomers include freshmen Kloyee Anderson, Kayla Davis and transfer Taylor Clark.
Alabama won’t be looking for a replacement for pitcher Alexis Osorio, so much as it will be looking for replacements. Osorio ate up a lot of innings last season (168), and Murphy said the Crimson Tide won’t be relying on one dominant pitcher. Instead, three or four pitchers will be used in a game.
“This is the first time in my career we’ve had five pitchers,” Murphy said. “But we really solidified the pitching staff. We are just going to use everybody. That’s going to be really fun, especially for first couple of weekend tournaments.”
There are three new players on the pitching staff, with the biggest addition being freshman Montana Fouts, from Grayson, Kentucky. She was the All-USA High School Player of the Year and MaxPreps National Softball Player of the Year. Fouts, along with Wallace, is also on the USA Junior Women’s National Training team.
“She is the hardest working pitcher we’ve ever had,” Murphy said. “Since day one she has impressed everyone. She has worked her butt off already.”
Alabama added a couple of transfers to the rotation. Sarah Cornell, a junior transfer from Hofstra, was the Colonial Athletic Association Pitcher of the Year last season. Krystal Goodman, a junior transfer from Chipola Junior College in Florida, was the JJCAA Pitcher of the Year in 2018 after posting a 26-2 record and a .46 ERA.
Freshman Madison Preston is the last newbie pitcher for the Crimson Tide and veteran Courtney Gettins returns to make up rotation, which Murphy is itching to see in action this season.
“Montana hit 72 (mph) on the (radar) gun, Crystal hit 69, and Sarah hit 68 all in one day,” Murphy said. “The pitchers, I’m really excited about all them. You hardly ever get a pitcher that hits 68, let alone 69 and 72, on one team. So with three kids that can do that, and then Courtney has the best change-up and Madison has the best drop ball. Just that different look of a kid that you can throw out there on a whim — that’s exciting.”