Freshmen take advantage of opportunity, softball sweeps midweek doubleheader


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama freshman Kali Heivilin (22) is embraced by her teammates after hitting her first collegiate home run against North Alabama on April 19 at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Blake Byler, Staff Reporter

Every Alabama freshman was able to contribute on Tuesday night.

In a midweek doubleheader, head coach Patrick Murphy was able to utilize depth and multiple lineups in back-to-back wins over the North Alabama Lions (30-12) and the Alcorn State Braves (15-25).

“When everybody gets at-bats, it’s awesome,” Murphy said. “I’m going to need a lot of these people down the stretch. If I don’t play them now, I’ll never know what they can do.”

The No. 2 Crimson Tide (38-6) defeated the Lions 6-1 and followed it up with a 4-0 shutout of the Braves.

“Anytime you can play a doubleheader, I don’t care when it is, I’m going to take it,” Murphy said.

North Alabama 

Game one Tuesday afternoon looked like a blowout from the start.

After hits from freshman Aubrey Barnhart and senior Ally Shipman in the bottom of the first, freshman Megan Bloodworth drilled a long home run over the wall in left center field. This gave the Crimson Tide an early three-run lead.

Sophomore Jaala Torrence started in the circle for Alabama and pitched an excellent game. She struck out two batters in four full innings pitched, allowing zero runs and only one hit.

In the second inning, Alabama added more runs with freshman Kali Heivilin hitting one deep into center field for the first home run of her young career.

“That was a great feeling, for sure,” Heivilin said. “I think being able to have at bats, and being able to perform builds my confidence, because I know I can do it.”

 Heivilin had only 18 at-bats on the season heading into Tuesday, with three hits and four RBIs.

“[Heivilin] does it everyday in practice, you guys just don’t see it,” Murphy said.

The Crimson Tide scored two more in the second inning from Barnhart and senior Ashley Prange, extending the lead to 6-0. Alabama totaled six hits through just two innings.

Barnhart made just her seventh start of the season against the Lions and made the most of it, going 2-for-3 and crossing the plate twice.

Though the momentum was entirely on Alabama’s side, the Crimson Tide could not find any consistent hitting after the second inning, only recording one more hit. North Alabama’s left-handed pitcher Megan Warhurst subbed in after the first out of the second inning and allowed only two hits from the Crimson Tide the rest of the game.

Murphy made the call to substitute Torrence in favor of junior Lexi Kilfoyl in the circle in the fifth inning, and immediately the Lions capitalized. Two straight hits, including an RBI single, brought in North Alabama’s first and only run of the game. Kilfoyl pitched through the rest of the game and allowed a total of four hits and one run.

Kilfoyl didn’t tire, getting the start in game two against Alcorn State.

Alcorn State

The second game got off to a much slower start than the first. Through two innings, Alabama had just one hit compared to the six through two innings in the previous game. The Crimson Tide were able to get on the board in the second inning, though, after freshman Jordan Stephens reached home following a throwing error by the Braves’ third baseman.

“I think it’s really important for us to get the feel of big-time college softball,” Stephens said of the freshman class’s increased playing time on Tuesday. “It’s definitely a different environment from where we came from, no matter where we were in high school.”

Alabama finally got runners on base in the third, but by the means of walks rather than hits. The Crimson Tide had three batters walk in the inning, including a free pass with the bases loaded to bring in Barnhart for Alabama’s second run of the game. The Crimson Tide could not add any more, though, after a fly out stranded three runners at the end of the inning.

Alabama added two more runs in the fifth inning, both unearned due to an error at first base and a wild pitch.

Kilfoyl pitched masterfully against the Braves after the shaky start to her first inning pitched against North Alabama. In the second game, Kilfoyl allowed only one hit and struck out nine batters before being replaced by sophomore Alex Salter to finish out the game.

“I thought [the pitchers] were great,” Murphy said. “Jaala was great, [Salter] was great, Kilfoyl was great, as always. It was a good night.”

The Crimson Tide will travel to College Station, Texas, to take on Texas A&M in their second-to-last SEC series of the season. Games will be on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with first pitch of game one set for 6 p.m. CT on SEC Network+.

When asked if his team was feeling any pressure about competing for the SEC regular season title, Murphy answered bluntly.

“No, we’re used to it,” Murphy said.