5 things to know as Alabama softball gears up for 2021 season

Brett Greenberg
Tuscaloosa News
KB Sides makes a play on the ball in right field as the Crimson Tide rebounded to take the second game of the weekend series with Arkansas Saturday, March 7, 2020. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Just like everything else in the country, the Alabama Crimson Tide's 2020 softball season was cut short due to COVID-19, ending Alabama's hopes for winning its first SEC championship since 2014. 

The 2020 Crimson Tide team finished with a 14-8 record after the season was canceled on March 12. The team was able to compete in four tournaments and one SEC series (Arkansas). 

The 2021 Alabama softball team will begin play Feb. 12 in Austin, Texas where it will play five games in three days. 

Here's a look at the Crimson Tide going into practice before the 2021 season:

The Crimson Tide is loaded

Coach Patrick Murphy will have 22 players on his roster, the most he has ever had. Murphy will also have nine freshmen: five from 2020 and four from 2021. 

"From my office, I can see the football practice field," said Murphy. "And I thought to myself, if they have 85 guys on scholarship who are all four- and five-stars, they know how to compete for a spot and I think that's a good thing for us and our girls."

Claire Jenkins is Back

Senior shortstop Claire Jenkins will be back as the anchor of the defense in the infield after undergoing season-ending ACL surgery during the 2020 season. As a junior, Jenkins started 69 games at shortstop with just 11 errors.

In a preseason media session, Jenkins said she is excited to compete with the deep roster because it will make her and her teammates better.

The pitching staff is six deep

The pitching staff added two more arms this year. The 2021 staff includes the 2019 SEC Freshman of the Year in Montana Fouts (sophomore), the 2019 SEC Pitcher of the Year in Sarah Cornell (senior), Krystal Goodman (senior), Lexi Kilfoyl, a two-time Florida Gatorade Player of the Year (freshman), and true freshmen Alex Salter and Jaala Torrence.

Murphy said everyone has taken a step forward and he is confident with any arm he puts in the circle.

Arkansas catcher Kayla Green tags out runner Maddie Morgan as the Crimson Tide rebounded to take the second game of the weekend series with Arkansas Saturday, March 7, 2020. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

The starting outfield returns 

The starting outfield returns all three starters from the shortened 2020 season.

Freshman centerfielder Jenna Johnson anchors the outfield after committing just one error in 21 games played. Junior right fielder and 2019 SEC all-tournament team award recipient K.B. Sides returns for her third season after posting a .304 batting average her sophomore year with 22 stolen bases. Grad-transfer Alexis Mack holds down left field for the Crimson Tide after posting a .418 batting average in the shortened season. 

Bill Battle donation brings back seniors

Former Alabama athletics director Bill Battle (2013-17) added to his legacy this offseason by surprising Murphy with a donation to the program big enough to cover scholarships for the seven seniors who wanted to come back after their shortened season. 

"I want to give a public thank you to an incredible individual that I've been lucky enough to know for years," said Murphy. "Six seniors are going to be able to get their master's degree and one senior will have two undergraduate degrees." 

The seven seniors include outfielders Elissa Brown and graduate-transfer Mack; infielders Jenkins and Taylor Clark; utility player Bailey Hemphill; and pitchers Cornell and Goodman.

The seniors will be balanced by newcomers Bailey Dowling, Torrence, KJ Haney, Salter and Kat Grill.