Last year the mantra for the Alabama softball team was about respect.
Rather, the lack of it.
Well, the Crimson Tide has that in bulk heading into the 2020 season.
Alabama was at No. 1 in the D1Softball preseason top 25 rankings released Tuesday. It’s the first rankings for D1Softball, which was recently launched.
Washington was ranked No. 2 with Arizona at No. 3. Defending champ UCLA was in No. 4, followed by runner-up Oklahoma at No. 5.
Florida (9), LSU (11), Tennessee (14), Georgia (15), Kentucky (17), South Carolina (20), Arkansas (21), Auburn (22) and Missouri (25) were the SEC teams ranked.
Heading into the 2019 season Alabama was not given much of a chance to be in the playoff hunt, picked No. 9 overall in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll. The Crimson Tide was given less of a chance in its own league. The SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll had Alabama eighth.
Alabama exceeded expectations last season, winning the regular-season SEC title and finishing third in the nation after reaching the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series.
Alabama returns 13 players from last season’s team that went 60-10, including SEC Pitcher of the Year Sarah Cornell and SEC Freshman of the Year Montana Fouts.
Second-team All-American Bailey Hemphill is also back. She set a school record for home runs (26) and RBIs (82) with one swing against Florida in the WCWS in June in a 15-3 win.
Also returning is second-team All-American Kaylee Tow, sophomore Skylar Wallace (2019 SEC All-Freshman team), senior Elissa Brown (2019 second-team All-SEC) and junior Maddie Morgan (2019 second-team All-SEC).
Five freshmen are on the roster, including two-time Florida Gatorade Player of the Year Lexi Kilfoyl, who was a teammate of Fouts and Wallace last summer on the Under 19 USA National Team that won a gold medal.
Throw in veteran pitcher Krystal Goodman, who went 11-1 with a 1.63 ERA, and Alabama is loaded at pitcher.
“We have the potential to be the best pitching staff we’ve ever had with four awesome pitchers,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said during a preseason media event last week.
Alabama adds another newcomer in Oregon transfer Alexis Mack, a base-stealing threat who led the Pac-12 in stolen bases and batting average in 2017. The outfielder can play multiple positions, which could come in handy during a long season.
“In the fall, when we had a couple of injuries before Fall Brawl, she came up to me and said, ’hey I can play second base, I can do it,’” Murphy said. “She hadn’t even taken a ground ball all fall. She played the first game and it looked like she had been out there her whole career. She’s got options. She can play left, center and second base if we needed her to.”
The Crimson Tide opens its 2020 season at the Joanne Graf Classic in Tallahassee, Florida, Feb. 7-8. Alabama will play two games each against North Carolina and host Florida State.
Reach Edwin Stanton at 205-722-0226, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @edwinstantonu2