To say this weekend was eventful for the No. 3 Alabama softball team would be an understatement. Head coach Patrick Murphy earned his 700th career win as the Crimson Tide swept the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Senior pitcher Kelsi Dunne also broke an Alabama career strikeouts record, finishing the series with 1,114. The Tide was not done breaking records, however, as for the first time in Alabama softball’s history the Tide had to actually turn away fans in Saturday’s double-header with their record-setting attendance of 3,395 fans.
“It was awesome to see him get his 700th win,” Dunne said. “He’s a true inspiration to us as a coach. It’s only the beginning of his success, after this year it’s only going to get better, because the more he coaches the better he gets.”
The Tide won their first game of the series, 6-2, after two home runs by junior outfielder, Jazlyn Lunceford and senior Whitney Larsen. Senior pitcher Kelsi Dunne allowed only two runs on three hits and struck out seven while not walking any batters.
The second game of the series was the Tuscaloosa Toyota Power of Pink Game that ended 13-3 earning Alabama another win in the series. In the game, the Tide had three home runs coming from freshman infielder Kaila Hunt, junior outfielder Cassie Reilly-Boccia, and sophomore infielder Courtney Conley. After Conley’s three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth Alabama took a mercy-rule victory.
Mississippi State put points on the board in the first inning when junior outfielder/catcher Ka‘ili Smith scored on a wild pitch. Alabama came back in the bottom of the first with two runs. The first came after junior Amanda Locke singled to center field, bringing in junior outfielder Jennifer Fenton to score the Tide’s first run of the game. After an error by MSU’s shortstop, Larsen was also able to bring in a run a few pitches later.
Locke had a solo home run in Sunday’s matchup in the bottom of the fourth. Junior catcher Kendall Dawson also hit a long one in the sixth inning of the game bring in two more runs for the Tide.
“We believe in every single person on this team,” Dunne said. “Dawson’s been working so hard, just to see her success at the plate this weekend was so much fun. We just knew that once she got that first hit she would get on a roll.”
Murphy’s 700th career win now sets his overall career record to 700-204. Murphy is now the sixth Southeastern Conference coach with 700 career victories. During Murphy’s 14th season as head coach, he has earned more SEC victories than any coach in the conference.
Before the game, the team wrote Murphy a card about the impact he’s made on their careers and lives.
“No matter what you do or how you perform, he never loses sight of what you can do,” Locke said. “It’s so crazy, because after he got his 700th win, he was thanking us and we were like ‘no, thank you!’ We couldn’t ask for a better coach. He’s very deserving.”
Although Murphy’s team was quick to brag about his feat, he said he felt it was the team that deserves all the credit.
“I’ve never played a game, or thrown a ball or pitched,” Murphy said. “It’s these kids doing all the work. Being able to have consistent players over 14 years has attributed to that… It was great to have all the alumni in town this weekend to share in this moment.”
Offensively, the Tide played strong in the final game of the series scoring five runs, but it was the defense that shined Sunday afternoon. In the top of the fifth inning, Dunne broke Alabama’s career record for strikeouts with 1,114 beating out the previous record holder, Stephanie VanBrakle, who had 1,113. Dunne also has 105 career wins, just 10 wins shy of tying the current record holder, Shelly Laird.
“Hitters make adjustments and you have to make adjustments to those adjustments,” Dunne said. “It was fun to accomplish that. It’s truly an honor to be up there with all those awesome pitchers.”
Alabama now moves to 41-5 overall and 15-4 in SEC play. The Tide’s next game is at the University of Florida on April 22.