While the athletes will be competing against the best in the world in competitions like the World Cup of Softball, Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy, who also served as an assistant coach on the national team in 2009, said he has faith in his athletes ability to contend at the international level.
“They’re going to do great,” Murphy said. “It’s so cool to have two Alabama kids on team USA. I know everybody in Alabama is going to be pulling for them. I’ve had so many texts and tweets and email messages today. It’s just going to be a lot of fun to follow their progress.”
McCleney was given a spot on the roster for the first time after a season in which she batted .444, reached base in 64 of 65 games, scored 70 runs and was named an NFCA All-American. Murphy said the international competition will be a whole new challenge for one of the ?country’s top players.
“You have to step up a level. It’s like going into the NFL or Major League Baseball. You’re now at the highest level possible. College was great, but this is another step up. It just depends on if you can make that jump.”
Traina returns to the team for the second year after finishing her UA career with 106 wins. Traina was named SEC Pitcher of the Year, first-team All-American and a finalist for USA Softball player of the year in 2014. The stint with the national team might serve as a “last hurrah” for the long-time Alabama ace, who said earlier this month that she would not pursue ?professional softball.
“Well Jackie’s been [there],” Murphy said. “She played in 2012, so this is her second go-round. But it’s so rewarding. I’m proud of both of them. Haley got to play in the junior national team a couple years ago, and she played in Canada, I believe, last year. It’s so neat for Alabama to be able to be represented on an international stage.”
Murphy said the duo’s achievement speaks to the world-class ability of the two athletes.
“When they make a USA team, that means they are two of the best athletes in the sport of softball in the world, not just in the USA,” Murphy said. “To make that USA team, you’ve got to be among the best of the best in the states. And then obviously when they go into this tournament, they’re going to compete in a championship, which means that that puts them at the best in the world. Both Traina and McCleney, I’d put them up against anybody actually in the world, and it’ll be fun to see how they do to go over to a different country, the Netherlands. It’s just going to be cool for them to experience that international competition, which is so different than playing in college. You have USA across your chest, and that means a lot.”
The team’s first game will be an exhibition in Morgantown, West Virginia, followed by the World Cup of Softball in Irvine, California, ?July 7 to 13.