No. 4 Alabama softball prepares for top-10 clash with Gators this weekend

Blake Byler, Staff Reporter

In a rematch of last year’s SEC tournament championship, the No. 4 Crimson Tide (31-5, 8-4 SEC) and No. 7 Gators (30-6, 7-5 SEC) will meet in Gainesville, Florida, for a weekend series starting on Saturday.

Alabama was supposed to play in a midweek game against Jacksonville State on Wednesday in the Sand Mountain Showdown, but the game was canceled due to inclement weather.

Last weekend, the Crimson Tide hosted a series against the then-No. 18 Georgia Bulldogs, which Alabama won 2-1. There were questions about whether Alabama was still in a slump after a 5-3 loss in game one, but the Crimson Tide responded in an emphatic way.

Alabama didn’t waver and took the series, thanks to a perfect game from junior pitcher Lexi Kilfoyl Monday night. Kilfoyl pitched in both wins in the series, which earned her SEC Pitcher of the Week honors.

“Pitching back-to-back games was kind of unexpected, but I knew that I could do it,” Kilfoyl said. “I just stayed focused, used everything I learned from [Sunday] to my advantage and focused on attacking each batter.”

This weekend, Florida will host coming off a series victory over then-No. 17 Auburn, 2-1. The Gators also boast wins over top-25 teams UCF, Duke and Michigan in nonconference play, and will be a considerably tough out for Alabama.

The key for Alabama in the series victory over Georgia was what head coach Patrick Murphy has been preaching all year: passing the bat down.

Alabama has gotten in trouble in spots this season when it has been unable to get hits with runners in scoring position or to string consecutive hits together.

The sixth inning of game two against Georgia embodied what Murphy wants to see from his team at the plate. Ten different players got up to bat, and six runs were scored in the inning, which ultimately put Alabama ahead and sealed the game.

“Just trying to string something along, we really emphasized passing the bat,” third baseman Ashley Prange said. “If one person gets on, don’t be that second out. We prioritized that and did a really good job of taking pride in that.”

When Alabama embraces that mentality, Florida, and everyone else, will have a hard time beating them.

“We have a refuse-to-lose mentality, and so the SEC is super competitive, so every game matters,” left fielder Jenna Johnson said. 

First pitch from Gainesville on Saturday, April 9, is scheduled for 4 p.m. CT on ESPN.

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