From role players to postseason stars: How Savannah Woodard and Taylor Clark have stepped up for Alabama softball

Brett Greenberg
The Tuscaloosa News

Patrick Murphy, coach of the Alabama softball team, talked before the season about how the 2021 Crimson Tide was truly two deep at each position. 

“There are still some kids who haven’t had much game action that will get a chance to hit,” Murphy said after the opening weekend.

Turned out the Crimson Tide – seeded No. 3 in the NCAA Tournament heading into this weekend's Tuscaloosa Super Regional against Kentucky – would need that depth.

The outfield tested that theory earlier in the season after Jenna Johnson and KB Sides missed time due to injury, forcing Savannah Woodard and others to rotate in right field. 

Murphy was forced to double and triple down on his statement when freshman Bailey Dowling, team home run and RBI leader at the time, tore her ACL in the Tennessee series and then, three weeks later, Claire Jenkins tore her MCL in the Florida series. 

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Alabama hitter Taylor Clark (9) is greeted by teammates after hitting her first home run of the season, a two-run homer agains Tennessee during the SEC Tournament in Rhoads Stadium  Friday, May 14, 2021. [Pool Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Woodard and graduate student Taylor Clark have held down the middle infield ever since: Woodard at second, Clark at shortstop. 

“When they didn’t play, they didn’t pout and then all of a sudden, boom, a couple of injuries and they’re in the starting lineup,” said Murphy after the SEC Tournament championship victory. 

In the Crimson Tide’s ongoing 16-game win streak, sophomore utility player Woodard leads the team in RBIs (15), is ranked fourth in slugging percentage (.432%), fifth in on-base percentage (.423%) and has committed just one error. In regional play, Woodard batted .333 (3-for-9) with a triple and two runs scored.

“(Woodard) has done great things at the plate and in the field,” said Murphy. “She’s been especially good with two outs and has been clutch.”

Alabama's Taylor Clark reacts to her three-run homer in the second inning Sunday, sending the Crimson Tide to a win against Clemson in the NCAA softball Tuscaloosa Regional championship game.

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Clark hit her first and second home runs of the season in the postseason and has produced RBIs on three of her four hits. 

Clark hit her first home run against Tennessee in the semifinal of the SEC Tournament, a two-run shot scoring Woodard. She added an RBI in the championship game against Florida. In the SEC Tournament, Clark was tied for second in RBIs (3) and hits (2) and was the only player to hit a home run other than Bailey Hemphill.

Clark's second homer was a three-run shot against Clemson in the championship round of the regional, propelling Alabama to the super regional round. 

“That’s one of the joys of coaching to see that happen," said Murphy. “They both work extremely hard and they’re team players. Everyone on the team is very proud of them."

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Alabama hitter Savannah Woodard (23) is all smiles after hitting a run-scoring triple. Alabama faced Alabama State in the Tuscaloosa Regional Friday, May 21, 2021. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]