Hannah Saad | @hannah_saad21
The last time Alabama softball was on the field together was a couple of days after its series win against the Arkansas Razorbacks in mid-March. Players cheered, clapped and jumped up and down as they took the field together for the moment.
Alabama softball celebrated its 25th anniversary as a team in Rhoads Stadium, where it began fall practice in preparation for the 2021 season.
“It was like Christmas day,” head coach Patrick Murphy said. “It was just a fun day for everyone.”
The 2021 roster is composed of 22 players, surpassing even the 20-women roster in 2012, the year of the program’s lone national championship. This larger-than-ever roster means the stakes are higher, as each player will have to fight for their name to be etched in the lineup card come February.
“We’re just constantly competing in any game we do, to hitting, to fielding, as we are each trying to solidify our spot on the team,” senior Elissa Brown said. “It really just amps up the competitiveness of everyone.”
Despite the large roster, Murphy and staff have kept the structure of practices similar to years past. Murphy noted that the most notable difference coming with the large roster is the six arms in the bullpen. The six pitchers mark the most the staff has had in a single season.
A large roster leads to the possibility of formulating several lineups. In order to piece together the best possible lineup, Murphy and staff will keep track of players’ statistics throughout the fall. Not only will this help the staff put out the best possible lineup, but will also help players realize where they stand.
“[The coaching staff is] going to keep stats on everything and post them so everybody can see where they stand,” Murphy said. “I think it’s necessary with a roster that big.”
So far, practice time has been used to go through the fundamentals both defensively and offensively. Murphy has always preached that in order to be successful at the plate, one has to understand the strike zone. In order to have players develop this skill, Murphy conducted a drill where he yells a number, which represents a specific location in the strike zone, and players will have to immediately put the barrel of their bat to that location. On the defensive side, players have practiced the fundamentals of playing catch, fielding short hops, relay and footwork drills.
As the fall season continues to move along, weekly scrimmages will start being held. Murphy believes these scrimmages will lead to an even more competitive environment.
Senior Alexis Mack said the long offseason allowed for players to develop a rejuvenated mindset when stepping on the field.
“We’re just going to be relentless in the way we attack every single day in order to get better and push each other to the highest standard possible,” Mack said.
At the start of every fall, each player must have an intangible, which is an attribution they will bring to the field every day. For Mack, her intangible is to share and teach her teammates lessons from her past experiences, as she is one of few sixth-year players in the NCAA. Mack not only wants to lead by teaching but also by example in hopes that her work ethic will rub off on her teammates.
“I’ve had the same personal goal since freshman year and that’s to outwork everybody,” Mack said. “I want to set a standard through my work ethic.”
Brown’s goal is to be a spark plug and bring an uplifting and positive presence. These are just two of the ways Mack and Brown look to help push the team in a positive direction.
Preparing for the fall looked different for each player as there was no mandatory workout regime. For those players who wanted a specific agenda to follow they showed strength and condition coach Michelle Diltz what equipment was available to them and from there Diltz would make a workout plan specific to them.
By the end of fall practice in November, Murphy wants each player to have confidence in their swing, be “comfortable” in a position they might be asked to play and to understand the different defensive sets. Mack, the sixth-year veteran, wants herself and the rest of the team to put their best foot forward each day in order to put the team in the best position possible come February.
“As a team, we just want to look back and know we gave it every single thing we had to put ourselves in the best position possible to win a national championship in the spring,” Mack said.