Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Everything fans need to know before Alabama softball’s 28th team 

CW/ Natalie Teat
Alabama pitcher Jaala Torrence pitching against Georgia Southern on Feb. 11, 2023 at Rhoads Stadium.

Fresh off the heels of the program’s 14th trip to the Women’s College World Series, the Alabama softball team and head coach Patrick Murphy are looking to reload and return to Oklahoma City with the hopes of winning the program’s second national championship.  

The Crimson Tide come into the program’s 28th season slotted at No. 14 in the ESPN Top 25. Three SEC schools — Tennessee at No. 2, Georgia at No. 6, and Arkansas at No. 12 — come in ranked ahead of Alabama with soon-to-be SEC foes Oklahoma and Texas ranked at No. 1 and 5, respectively.  

“We’re so excited about this year, and it’s one of the most athletic teams we’ve ever had,” Murphy said. “The deepest pitching staff we’ve ever had.”  

After the 2023 season concluded, Alabama said goodbye to longtime starting pitcher Montana Fouts, third baseman Ashley Prange and catcher Ally Shipman. All three were household names the past few years, with Fouts starting since she came to Tuscaloosa in 2019, and Prange and Shipman both starting over 100 games the past two seasons.  

Both Shipman and Prange led the team in hitting last year, combining for 22 home runs and 81 RBIs. This season, seniors Bailey Dowling and Emma Broadfoot, along with sophomore Abby Duchscherer, will be called upon to anchor the corners of the infield. Dowling and Broadfoot both started 50-plus games in 2023. Dowling finishing with a .287 batting average, adding eight homers and 48 RBIs, and Broadfoot finished with a .364 on-base percentage.  

“I’m really excited for this year and just with how hardworking this team is,” Dowling said.  

Filling out the infield will be returning starters at shortstop and second base, with Kenleigh Cahalan hoping to build off a stellar freshman campaign in which she started all 67 games. Junior Kali Heivilin, who started 56 games last season, will look to continue where she left off last season when she went 4 for 11 with two home runs in the NCAA regionals.   

At catcher, there will be multiple new faces as coach Adam Arbour, coordinator of player management in 2023, has been named not only the team’s hitting coach but also the catching coach.  

With Shipman’s departure, Alabama ventured to the transfer portal and extracted former Texas A&M catcher Riley Valentine. Valentine started 20 games for the Aggies in 2023 and in limited at-bats still knocked in 20 runs and smashed six home runs. Alongside Valentine is returning sophomore utility player Marlie Giles. Giles started 18 games in 2023, highlighted by a home run in the College World Series against Tennessee.  

“We have two really, really, really, really good catchers,” Murphy said. “We’ve been trying to test them in scrimmages, like I’ll steal all the green-light girls [players who are adept at stealing bases] and they’ve probably thrown out 90% of them.” 

Another new coach has entered the program after veteran assistant Alyson Habetz retired. Taking over for her is none other than former Alabama All-American outfielder Kayla Braud. 

“Braud has been awesome with the outfield,” Murphy said. “Even better than expected.” 

Lucky for Braud, the Crimson Tide return all three of its starting outfielders in graduate student Jenna Johnson and sophomores Larissa Preuitt and Kristen White.  

Both Johnson and Preuitt were named to the All-SEC second team as together they finished with 45 RBIs and 44 runs scored.  White batted .294 in 2023 with all 30 of her hits being singles.  

Now that Fouts’ run inside the circle is over, Murphy’s succession plan is finally in motion. He will be calling upon not just one but a variety of pitchers to fill that role. 

Looking inside the program, Alabama has three pitchers who gained experience last season.  Senior Jaala Torrence is the most veteran of the three with 23 starts over the past three seasons, during which she accumulated an 18-5 record. Junior Alex Salter and fifth-year senior Lauren Esman each made 20-plus appearances in 2023, with both player’s ERAs hovering around 3.00.  

However, Murphy also made multiple additions to the staff through the transfer portal. Graduate student Kayla Beaver brings quite the resume from Central Arkansas, where in 2023 she went 25-7 with a 1.15 ERA. She was also named to the Top 50 Watch List for 2024 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. Picked right out of the Bayou is sophomore Alea Johnson, who in her one year at LSU finished with a 7-1 record to go along with a 1.41 ERA. Not to mention Murphy also brought in freshman Jocelyn Briski, who finished her stellar high school career with a 0.54 ERA and was named the Arizona 6A High School Pitcher of the Year three years in a row.  

“I think when we have six very capable pitchers, why not use them all? We can see us mixing and matching,” Murphy said.  

The season kicks off Thursday, with a trip to Atlanta for the Buzz Classic, in which Alabama will play five games in three days against Villanova, Longwood and Georgia Tech. The first home game is scheduled for Feb. 16, with the Crimson Tide welcoming St. Thomas, Virginia and Southern Indiana to Rhoads Stadium for the Easton Bama Bash.  

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