Softball escapes Samford, Murphy wins 1,200th game at Alabama

Blake Byler, Sports Editor

Black and white signs that read the number “1,200” waved in the air while chants of “Pat-rick Mur-phy” echoed down over the infield of Rhoads Stadium. It was a sight to behold as Alabama softball fans celebrated their head coach surpassing another career milestone. 

No. 7 Alabama narrowly defeated Samford University by a final score of 3-2, a win that marked the 1,200th at the Capstone for head coach Patrick Murphy. 

“It’s just unreal,” Murphy said. “To be at the same program for 27 years, it just does not happen in college athletics anymore, anywhere, in any sport. To be able to be here from day one until today is amazing.” 

The game itself featured a comeback, as Samford led by two runs for much of the game. 

“[Samford] definitely made us work hard for it,” Murphy said. “Great game, you’ve got to give them credit. All their pitchers did well. … Why not make it hard, am I right?” 

Pitcher Alex Salter started the game strong for the Crimson Tide, retiring the Bulldogs’ first six batters. Those outs included a slick catch for a line out in the top of the second inning that brought about awestruck cheers from the Alabama faithful. 

Alabama threatened in the bottom of the second, recording two hits in the inning before Ball State University transfer Faith Hensley was thrown out at home plate attempting to score the Crimson Tide’s first run of the night.  

When Samford got its turn to threaten, it took advantage. In the top of the fourth inning with runners on second and third, Bulldog catcher Logan Champion ripped a ground ball into center field. Alabama freshman shortstop Kenleigh Cahalan couldn’t make the play, resulting in a fielding error, which lead to a two-run Samford lead. 

Finally, in the fourth, the Crimson Tide got on the board. With a runner on second, junior Bailey Dowling sent a deep shot through the left field gap, bringing in freshman Abby Duchscherer. 

Entering the fifth inning, Salter was replaced in the circle by junior Jaala Torrence. Torrence immediately made an impact, striking out two batters in the inning.  

“[I did] the same routine, making sure I’m ready throughout the game,” Torrence said. “Making sure everything looks good and that I’m not trying to do much.” 

Alabama had a chance to take the lead in the fifth with runners on second and third, but both were stranded after freshman Marlie Giles struck out swinging, to an exasperated exhale of the home crowd. 

With time running out, Murphy went to his dugout and found some answers. Pinch-hitting Ally Shipman entered to float a single between the Samford first baseman and right fielder, bringing in pinch-running Larissa Preuitt and tying the game. Cahalan followed with an RBI single to score Dowling, giving Alabama its first lead that it would not relinquish. 

“It felt amazing,” Cahalan said. “I know the other girls were cheering me on, the staff was cheering me on, and I didn’t want to let them down.” 

Cahalan’s hit marks the ninth straight game in which she has recorded a hit to start her collegiate career. That’s the second-most in Alabama history, trailing Haley McCleney’s streak of 12 games to begin her freshman season in 2013. 

“I think she’s going to be one of the best hitters we’ve ever had,” Murphy said. “She’s going to continue to work hard, she stays within herself. She doesn’t get too high, too low. It’s how you handle the failure, with what you do at the other at-bats.” 

With the victory, the Crimson Tide now turns its attention to the Easton Bama Bash, a tournament that Alabama will host this weekend at Rhoads Stadium. 

Questions or comments? Email Blake Byler (Sports Editor) at [email protected]