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Hemphill’s season garners national attention

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Hemphill’s season garners national attention

CW/ Hannah Saad

CW/ Hannah Saad

CW/ Hannah Saad

CW/ Hannah Saad

James Benedetto, Sports Writer

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The No. 4 hitter in any lineup is known as the offensive juggernaut of the team. The clean-up hitter holds an immense amount of pressure on their shoulders every time they come up to bat.

Opposing pitchers know this batter can severely hurt them while fans and teammates patiently wait for greatness with one swing of the bat.

For Alabama, Bailey Hemphill operates out of that slot in the lineup. It’s a position that may be too much for others, but for the Lafayette, Louisiana native, it’s a position in which she thrives.

“I don’t see it as a pressure but as a benefit for our team,” Hemphill said. “If they want to walk me, they can walk me because I know the people behind me like Claire [Jenkins], Merris [Schroder] and Reagan [Dykes] are going to score me somehow, but if I get pitches to see then I am going to attack the zone and put them in play.”

This mindset is an aspect that Hemphill works on to not allow the pressure of being the clean-up hitter affect her game, and it has allowed her to become the engine for this offense. In her junior year, Hemphill is having a career season in most offensive categories, including batting average (.349), runs (31), home runs (19) and RBIs (61).

“I think I am being aggressive but also disciplined in my at-bats,” Hemphill said. “I am being aggressive on strikes, and I am not letting them get me out on their best pitch. I am looking for the mistake, and I think I am doing a good job at seeing pitches to drive.”

Her stats have also garnered some national attention as well. Hemphill ranks second in RBIs nationally, while her 19 home runs place her fifth. For coach Patrick Murphy, Hemphill’s performance is something he expected.

“This year, I thought she would really have a breakout year,” Murphy said. “At the end of the year last year, we were in Seattle, and we were [so close] to advancing. We just needed a couple of hits, that was it. Score a couple of more runs and we are in a different situation with our seeding, so who is going to be that person to be the run producer?”

Murphy further explained that at the beginning of the season, every player fills out a “get to know me sheet.” In essence it asks the players a range of questions, from what their goals are for the upcoming season to what role they need to fulfill on the team. When Hemphill filled out her sheet, she was clear about the role she wanted to play this season.

“Hers was run-producer,” Murphy said. “She is playing the role to perfection, and you have got to love it.”

The presence that Hemphill’s play has created sparks immediate attention from fans, coaches and even her teammates. For sophomore KB Sides, every time No. 16 steps to the plate, something exciting is bound to happen.

“Every game Bailey hits a home run, we just don’t stop,” Sides said. “Being at third when Bailey is hitting, I’m literally like, ‘Oh my gosh, don’t hit it over here.’ There’s been many a time I’ve been on base and I have a feeling like she’s going to hit one out. I’ve caught about half of her’s [during practice] I’d say. From first base, you can see a pitch that’s going and just the level of it, and she’s about to hammer it.”

Hemphill’s confidence at the plate has begun to spill over into other areas of her game. According to Murphy, her poise in her at-bats helped her develop into a more vocal leader behind the plate.

“[She is] much more vocal and even more animated as a catcher,” Murphy said. “That was one of the things we wanted out of her was to give us some more presence. Her stature was awesome, but we needed a little more vocal, a little more leadership, kind of demanding and that is not really her personality, but [against UAB] I saw a couple of times that was coming out.”

Hemphill and the rest of the Crimson Tide prepare for a crucial SEC matchup against No. 6 Florida. Alabama plays a double header on Friday, April 19 with game one set to start at 4:30 p.m.

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Hemphill’s season garners national attention