Softball | Easton Bama Bash to feature an SEC foe

No. 6 Alabama softball (4-0) will host its 22nd annual Easton Bama Bash this weekend, Feb. 19-21. The team is slated with a pair of games against the ASUN conference preseason favorite, the Liberty Flames (6-0), and long-time conference rival, the No. 8 LSU Tigers (3-1). 

The Easton Bama Bash was scheduled to be composed of a fourth team, but Gardner-Webb had players test positive for COVID-19 and will no longer be participating this weekend. Due to the absence of Gardner-Webb, a game between Alabama and LSU was added on Saturday, Feb. 20. But schedule changes like these don’t faze The Crimson Tide is not fazed, sophomore Lexi Kilfoyl said.

“I think what makes us [Alabama] one of the best teams in the country is our ability to adapt,” Kilfoyl said. “We’re ready for literally anyone who comes in our way.”

On Saturday, Feb. 20, the Alabama program will celebrate graduate Claire Jenkins for Senior Day. Jenkins, who was the starting shortstop for the 2019 SEC regular season championship and final four team, missed the 2020 shortened season due to an Achilles tendon injury. She made noise in her return to the starting lineup this season, holding a team to six RBIs. 

From a young age Jenkins dreamt of playing for Alabama and saw herself “grow so much” during her time in Tuscaloosa. 

“With this program I have grown as a person and I don’t think a lot of other programs can say that, which is why I love Alabama so much,” Jenkins said. “I’m gonna miss the people I get to be around each and everyday the most.” 

Murphy attributed Jenkins’ success to her work ethic. Jenkins was humbled by his praise.

“It’s probably one of the highest compliments anyone can give me,” Jenkins said. “I take pride in everything I do, and it means a lot that he sees it in me both on and off the field.”

Alabama has the reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week in junior Montana Fouts, who will receive this honor for the second time. Fouts pitched 11 innings on opening weekend, punched out 20 batters and held opponents to a .029 batting average. 

The pitching staff’s 24 scoreless innings to start off the season is the second-longest in program history, only behind the 2011 team, which had 29.2 scoreless innings. Kilfoyl, like Fouts, tossed 11 scoreless innings and held the opposition to a .128 batting average. 

“We have to have good pitching in order [for the team] to succeed,” Kilfoyl said. “We have to be ready for anything and prepared in the right ways.”

Elissa Brown led the Alabama offense this past weekend with a .667 batting average and nine stolen bases. Aside from Brown, the Crimson Tide lineup showed consistency at the plate as six other starters held a .300 average or above. Three doubles and two home runs came off the bats of freshman Bailey Dowling and senior Kaylee Tow. Murphy stated the offensive game plan will be to win the “freebie war;” which usually consists of walks, hits by pitching, opponent’s errors, wild pitches and passed balls. 

“We try to win the ‘freebie’ war every game,” Murphy said. “Whichever team wins that war in every game will win the game.” 

Previewing the Opponents: 

Liberty – Last year Alabama defeated the Liberty Flames 7-1 in the St. Pete/Clearwater Invitational. The Crimson Tide should sweep Liberty this weekend, since the Flames don’t have the pitching staff to silence the Alabama offense. In Liberty’s opening weekend, it gave up nine runs in five games against unranked teams. 

Coach Murphy has stated in the past that the other team’s best hitter can’t beat the team and decide the game. For Alabama, this hitter is Liberty’s senior Amber Bishop-Riley. Bishop-Riley was named to the “Top 50 Watch List” and leads the Flames in batting average, .444, and home runs, two.  In last year’s matchup, Bishop-Riley went two-for-four against graduate student Krystal Goodman. 

No. 8 LSU – The Alabama Crimson Tide versus the LSU Tigers is the only top 10 matchup scheduled. Despite both teams being in the SEC, these two games will not count toward conference records but have big implications in national rankings. In the preseason SEC coaches poll, Alabama was picked to win the conference while LSU came in as a close second. 

Last year, the LSU pitching staff had the lowest ERA in the nation, .95, and D1 softball predicted Shelby Wickersham to the SEC Pitcher of the Year this 2021 season. But the pitching staff didn’t live up to its preseason hype in the opening weekend, as it gave up 11 runs and had a cumulative 2.24 ERA. 

What makes a pitching staff special is that each pitcher provides a different look. But that’s not the case with LSU, whose four pitchers have mirror identical motions and pitches. If an offense is successful against the type of look LSU’s pitching provides, that might spell a long night for the Tigers. 

A bright spot for the Tigers is its offense. LSU’s lineup has three hitters batting .500 and five players with a home run. The biggest threats against the Alabama pitching staff will be Amanda Doyle and Shelbi Sunseri. Doyle leads the team in both RBIs, 11, and five home runs, while Sunseri has the ability to hit the ball with power to all parts of the field. 

The long ball has been the main source of scoring for the LSU offense, which can be a problem as Fouts and Kilfoyl, projected starters against the Tigers, tend to keep the ball in the yard when healthy. 

First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT between Alabama and Liberty in Rhoads Stadium. All of the games this weekend will be on the SEC Network plus, which can be watched on ESPN app.