University of Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy says he doesn’t regret the difficult schedule that has left the No. 13 Crimson Tide with a surprising 4-5 record going into this weekend’s Easton Bama Bash at Rhoads Stadium — but he will welcome the chance to return home.
“Of course it’s going to be 38 degrees but it seems like that happens every year,” Murphy said. “But we get to sleep in our own beds for four straight weekends, which has never happened on our schedule before.”
Alabama picked up a win over No. 1 Washington, one of three wins it earned last weekend, but the goal this week, Murphy says, is consistent starting pitching. The Crimson Tide will open play in The Bash on Friday, facing Wichita State at 4 p.m.
“We want a quality start in all five games this weekend,” Murphy said on Wednesday. “We’ve had maybe four quality starts so far this year, so we need to improve on that. Offensively, we need to answer when the other team scores. You can’t get whitewashed 7-0, which we’ve had twice.”
All four of Alabama’s starting pitchers — Krystal Goodman (1-0, 4.00 ERA), Sarah Cornell (1-1, 6.75), preseason All-America Montana Fouts (0-2, 4.88) and freshman Lexi Kilfoyl (2-2, 2.84) — are expected to see action in the circle this weekend.
“Montana was basically shut down after the Olympic Trials, she took eight weeks off, so she’s not been sharp yet,” Murphy said. “We’ve told her ‘we don’t have to have you 100 percent in February, we need you at 100 percent for May and June.’”
Kilfoyl’s one-hit shutout of No. 1 Washington was the Crimson Tide’s premier pitching effort to date.
“It hasn’t been easy so far at all,” Kilfoyl said Wednesday. “We were ranked (preseason) No. 1 so we had the targets on our back. We learned that we can’t just go out there and win if we don’t play well.”
Kilfoyl, who is also expected to appear in the batting order in at least some of the tournament games, says she is looking forward to her Rhoads Stadium debut.
“I can’t wait because we have the best fans in the entire softball spectrum,”she said.
Elissa Brown, the Crimson Tide’s leadoff hitter, should be available for a “Herb Jones” role this weekend, playing in some capacity for the Crimson Tide despite a wrist fracture she suffered just before the UA season opener.
“She actually played four games with a broken hand and hit .444 before we knew the situation,” Murphy said. “She will have some sort of cast for six weeks, but with her speed, she’ll probably be a pinch-runner in every game.”
Like Alabama, the other participating teams in this weekend’s Bama Bash have tested themselves in early season tournaments but while the records are not glittering, Murphy says the competition will be good.
Wichita State comes in with a 5-6 record but a top 25 offense (7.18 runs per game), a powerful slugger in Neleigh Herring (four home runs, 15 RBI) and a familiar face in former UA pitcher Morgan Lashley, now the Shockers’ pitching coach. Penn State has a 5-5 record after two Florida tournaments while Louisville opens play on Friday with a 2-7 record.
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