Softball team prepares for upcoming season

Cyrus Ntakirutinka

The Alabama softball team is preparing to kick off the season as they face the ninth-ranked Missouri Tigers this weekend. Head coach Patrick Murphy feels Alabama’s chance of success this weekend against the Tigers will come down to three things.

“It’s going to come down to defense, pitching and a key hit,” Murphy said. “We’re looking for those three things and we’re going to be tested really well. It could be our toughest opener we have ever had since I’ve been here.”

Playing a highly ranked team in Missouri as its season opener is a challenge Crimson Tide players aren’t afraid to step up to. For players like sophomore Cassandra Reilly-Boccia, this weekend’s matchup is one she has been waiting for all off-season.

“I’m really excited,” Reilly-Boccia said. “It’s probably one of the most exciting things to be playing a World Series opponent in your first weekend. Because you have all these questions about how your team’s going to turn out and a lot of them get answered that weekend. [We’re] able to show off all our hard work and everything we’ve been working on this entire offseason against a really competitive team.”

Alabama is coming off another impressive season that included an appearance in the World Series. With a 54-11 record in 2009, expectations are high for the 2010 campaign. Murphy feels the energy growing heading towards the start of the season.

“I think it’s more of an excited nervousness,” Murphy said. “It’s not a negative, but I think if you don’t have butterflies, there’s something wrong with you. Once that pitch is thrown where everybody settles down, they get an at bat, maybe they get the ball hit to them and then they pretend it’s little league and play like they’ve been playing since they were five or six.”

The Crimson Tide’s success last season is not the only reason there are large expectations at the Capstone. Alabama will be trying to replace longtime veterans that include All-Americans Brittany Rodgers, Kelley Montalvo and Ashley Holcombe, but there is an abundance of young and skilled depth on the team ready to step in.

The Tide’s incoming class of freshmen is yet another reason for Murphy to be optimistic about the upcoming campaign. To replace Rogers at centerfield, sophomore Jennifer Fenton and freshman Keima Davis will fill the void. Freshman Courtney Conley will be replacing Montalvo at third base. Sophomores Kendall Dawson and Olivia Gibson look to add depth behind the plate to replace Holcombe.

“We’re trying to figure out a lineup to begin with, we’ve got so many new kids,” Murphy said. “Second base is either going to be Kayla Braud or Catherine Dozier. Shortstop is either going to be Whitney Larsen or Jackie Branham. We’ll sit down as a staff, and everybody will submit their lineups to me and we’ll go from there.”

Alabama will play the Tigers in a doubleheader on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. and will conclude the series on Sunday at noon.