Alabama softball is ready to bring Team 26 to the field

Javon Williams| @javonwilliams_, Staff Reporter

The start of the season for Alabama softball is less than three weeks away, and the Crimson Tide is ready to hit the field. The 2021 SEC champions ended the season with their 13th appearance at the Women’s College World Series and were one win away from advancing to the championship series. 

“I’m just as excited this year as I’ve ever been, you know, it’s like day one,” head coach Patrick Murphy said. “Everyone involved with the staff and the team is looking forward to Team 26.”

The Alabama Hall of Fame coach is going into his 24th season as the team’s head coach and feels like he’s “won the lottery” with Team 26. Murphy said the team will bring a strong bond onto the field. 

“The chemistry is just perfect. I don’t know how they did it,” Murphy said. “We added nine new kids to 12 returnees, and it’s just been so much fun to coach.” 

Two of the new additions to the program are transfers. Murphy and staff brought in former Tennessee catcher Ally Shipman and former Ohio State infielder Ashley Prange. 

In Shipman’s three seasons with the Lady Vols, she started in 98 games, hit for a .334 average with 94 hits and had a career-high .403 batting average during the 2020 COVID-19-shortened season. Last season, Shipman was one of five Tennessee players to hit above .300 and also finished second on the team with 39 RBIs.

Prange’s presence with the Buckeyes was prominent. She started in 103 games and helped the team make an appearance in the 2019 NCAA Knoxville Regional. She hit three home runs in the regional. Prange scored 57 runs with 24 doubles, 18 home runs and 72 RBIs over her three years in Columbus. The New Palestine, Indiana, native was named a Second Team All-Big Ten member in 2019. 

“I think one of the greatest byproducts of adding Ashley and Ally is they’ve had three years or Power Five experience,” Murphy said. “They’re helping Montana and Kaylee with the leadership [aspect].” 

Graduate student infielder Kaylee Tow is heading into her fifth season with the Crimson Tide and has been a key player since her freshman year. Tow is a three-time NFCA All-American and NFCA All-South Region member. During the 2021 season, Tow started in every game. 

Senior pitcher Montana Fouts is in her fourth season with Alabama and has become a household name in softball. Fouts started in 32 games last season, tallied 22 double-digit strikeouts performances and led the NCAA with 349 strikeouts.

In 2021, Fouts earned some of the most prestigious accolades a pitcher can receive. She was named the NFCA Pitcher of the Year, the SEC Co-Pitcher of the Year, NFCA First Team All-American and South Region member, the SEC Tournament MVP, and a USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year finalist.

Fouts has been an impactful player for Alabama and will soon be one on Team USA. The Grayson, Kentucky, native was named to the National team on Jan. 7. 

“I’m super grateful to be part of the national-international team. It’s been a goal of mine since I started playing,” Fouts said. 

Fouts and alumna Haylie McCleney were selected to the 2022 USA Softball Women’s National Team. The 2022 World Games, scheduled for July 7-17 at the Hoover Met Stadium, will be Fouts’ first appearance for Team USA. 

Team 26 will make its season debut at the Candrea Classic in Tucson, Arizona. Fouts is ready to keep the tradition of winning in Arizona alive, as well as continuing to take part in good eats. 

“I remember we won the game against Arizona and Murph[y] took us to go to the Cheesecake Factory,” Fouts said. “So we’re hoping to keep that tradition.” 

Alabama’s first game of the season is against Southern Utah on Friday, Feb. 11, at 2 p.m. CT, followed by a sunset doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 12, against Oregon State at 4:30 p.m. and Arizona at 7 p.m. CT. The Crimson Tide will finish out the Candrea Classic against New Mexico on Sunday, Feb. 13, at 12:30 p.m. CT. 

Questions? Email the Sports desk at sports@cw.ua.edu.