Patrick Murphy can’t tell you what the 17th-ranked Alabama softball team’s lineup is going to be this weekend when it visits sixth-ranked Georgia. It’s not because he’s being coy. It’s because he doesn’t know.
“Just flip a coin,” the coach of the Crimson Tide said. “Whoever’s healthy.”
In 18 SEC games, Alabama has missed 13 starts due to injury. It’s really more like 15 when you consider that pitcher Alexis Osorio and center fielder Elissa Brown both left after being injured in the first inning of games.
Osorio, UA’s senior ace, missed two starts after sustaining a concussion. Brown missed two after an ankle injury. Third baseman Peyton Grantham missed six with a foot injury and first baseman Bailey Hemphill missed all three games of the Tennessee series with an injury similar to Grantham’s, and may only be available to pinch hit this weekend at Georgia.
That has resulted in a lot of moving parts on the diamond. In conference games, Alabama has started three players at first base, three in center field and two at third base, all due to the injuries.
The batting order has seen four different players hit in the leadoff position in league play, and that doesn’t count outfielder Gabby Callaway – who most often has hit fourth in the cleanup spot – finishing up that game at the top of the order when Brown was injured. Four different players have batted cleanup in conference games.
“Injuries are going to happen and that’s unfortunate,” Murphy said. “I guess it’s just something you’ve got to learn to roll with. Everybody’s adjusted. Nobody’s really disappointed me yet when they’ve had to move around to somewhere they probably didn’t think they were going to be.”
Not only has the lineup shifted, but Murphy has been liberal in using pinch hitters and changing out starters to try to find the best combination. Callaway, a sophomore, was born in Mobile and played high school ball in San Diego, so she’s used to moving around.
“We’ve had to be flexible,” she said, “but I think everybody’s embraced it.
“I think we all get excited when we’re able to manufacture runs, when Murph is kind of like moving those pieces around to get one more run across the board. That’s another aspect of the game that we all like; the chess match within the game is very exciting for all of us.”
Alabama players get conditioned for such changes in the offseason. Now they’re having to switch up roles for real.
“In fall ball I do this on purpose,” Murphy said. “We play eight games and I do eight different lineups just to see where somebody might hit in a spot that I’d never thought of, so they’re somewhat used to it. But after you’re in a spot for five, 10, 12 games and then all of a sudden you’re in the three hole, it’s a little bit different.”
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.
No. 17 Alabama at No. 6 Georgia
Where: Jack Turner Stadium in Athens, Ga.
Schedule: Friday at 5 p.m. CT, Saturday at 5 p.m. CT, Sunday at 1 p.m. CT
Records: Alabama 28-15, 8-10 SEC: Georgia 40-7, 13-5 SEC
TV: SEC Network (Saturday only)
Radio: 93.3 FM