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

Youth dominates Tide roster

With only three seniors and three juniors filling the upperclassmen cleats, the 2010 Crimson Tide softball team is filled with youth, but this group of 18 ladies isn’t lacking any of the drive or talent of a more mature team.

This season, there are five freshmen looking to break through the age barrier and set a standard for the years to come: Kayla Braud, Jackey Branham, Courtney Conley, Keima Davis and Lauren Sewell.

“I just think as the season goes along, they’re going to learn more about me, they’re going to learn more about what we expect, and they’re going to see some good completion because this is brand new to a lot of them,” said head coach Patrick Murphy. “I think we’re going to all come together when we need to in the end.”

Sewell threw a one-hitter in her first starting game at Stetson on Feb. 20, and “looked like a senior out there,” according to Murphy. Branham, Conley and Davis have all pinch hit and pinch run on some important plays for the Tide so far and earned the team some key runs.

In addition to the mounting pressure of playing a good game for themselves, the younger girls must show the Tide coaches and their teammates what they’re made of.

“It’s a job out here,” said Kayla Braud, the SEC’s freshman of the week. “There’s a lot more that goes into it, a lot more time spent with it, when you’re facing the better positions and better pitchers out there. It was tough at first because you come in and you haven’t proven anything yet. But on our team, it’s different. They expect us to play up to that level and when we push ourselves to play like them [upperclassmen], then they push themselves to play even harder. It makes the team better when you play to the best of your ability.”

Sophomore Olivia Gibson said the Alabama coaching staff has made sure every player is getting adequate time on the field and at the plate.

“We’ve had so many different lineups this year, trying to move everybody around and see what works,” she said. “Even at the end of a game or even if it’s the last three outs, [Murphy] has new people going in to give them one more inning of experience that can help us in the long run.”

“That’s one thing I struggle with when we set the lineup,” Murphy said. “I want to give everybody a shot, but in the back of my mind I think, ‘Are we playing with fire here, if we get too many young kids?’ But I think in the history of our program, when we give people shots, they respond and do well. I think in the long run it will help because it shows that I have confidence in everybody and in return they build confidence in themselves. I wouldn’t put them out there if I didn’t believe that they could do it.”

There is no lack of leadership on this youthful squad, either. Everyone plays their role on the field and on the bench.

“Even though we don’t have as many seniors here this year, there’s something that the others left behind,” said sophomore Cassie Reilly-Boccia. “The saying [is], “tradition never graduates,” and it has never been truer with this team. It’s a bunch of different people being a leader every day. It’s not a set person or a set group. Anywhere from the freshman class to the senior class you have different people stepping up and getting it done.”

Age is just a number when it comes to Alabama softball. Maturity of the team as a whole is where the real potential lies.

“I want them to act like they’re 24-26 years old and it’s hard to ask that when they’re 17-18,” Murphy said.

“We have a sheet for when we go on the road called the ‘Road Rules,’ and there are 15-20 rules that we expect out of each one of them everywhere we go. The last one is a higher level of maturity from everyone on the trip. That goes for everything, from being on the bus, to being in a restaurant, to being in the hotel, even interacting with the fans, interacting with the other teams and their support staff. You respect everyone and you fear no one.”

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