One thing Patrick Murphy has plenty of this season is options.
It seems the Crimson Tide softball coach has more choices than a Waffle House menu.
There are big-time athletes on the 2020 roster for sure. But they are also versatile, able to run, hit, field, and pitch.
“Talking with Skylar (Wallace) today, she can literally play all four infield positions, all three outfield positions and catch,” said Murphy, who enters his 22nd year at the helm for the Crimson Tide. “A kid like Lexi Kilfoyl can play first, she is going to pitch and she’s going to hit. Bailey (Hemphill) can play first, catcher and could play third base if I really needed her to. She played shortstop in high school, which nobody believes but she did.
“We just have a lot of good, athletic kids, which is really exciting. I think speed is going to be one of our best things this year. Team speed, team defense, the ability of a lot of people to play different positions.”
The Crimson Tide starts its 2020 campaign this weekend at the Joanne Graf Classic in Tallahassee, Florida. UA opens the season with a pair of games Friday, the first against North Carolina and the second vs. 8th-ranked Florida State.
Those options have already come in handy. In the fall Alabama lost starting shortstop Claire Jenkins to a torn ACL. Wallace, who was on the 2019 All-SEC Freshman team, slid over from second base to take over at shortstop. Graduate transfer Alexis Mack, an outfielder, has come in to play second base to solidify the middle infield.
“Just a confident kid and very athletic,” Murphy said of Mack, who transferred from Oregon. “Between the two of them that might be the best range of those two spots we’ve ever had because they are both faster than anything.”
Alabama finished last season 60-10 and ranked No. 4. The motivation from last season was fueled by a No. 8 preseason SEC ranking, which didn’t sit well with the Crimson Tide.
Alabama starts off at No. 1 this season.
“That has nothing to do with this year, it has to do with what we did last year and what you have coming back and what you have coming in,” Murphy said. “It’s a sign of respect for that and that’s how we took it and we appreciate it.
“But now it’s like, you have to prove it all over again. There are a lot of kids that want to prove something. Mack knows on her phone how many days it’s been since she last put on a uniform. She’s that ready to go. That’s what you want.“
Reach Edwin Stanton at email@example.com, 205-722-0226 or via Twitter, @edwinstantonu2