By (Ben Boynton)

Alabama softball is enjoying a rare off-week. After winning two out of three in Starkville, Mississippi, against Mississippi State, the team has no midweek games for the first time all season. Coach Patrick Murphy said he took advantage of the respite and gave his team two days off before returning to practice on Wednesday.

“I just think one day off is good, but two days off is awesome,” Murphy said. “They’re at a point now where they probably could have used it, mentally and physically.”

Having a decent amount of time between games can make it tough to follow up one good game with another. Junior shortstop Sydney Booker had a good day at the plate in March 19’s 3-0 win against the Bulldogs. She went 2-for-3 with two RBIs coming on two separate hits. She knocked in a run with an RBI single and hit a solo home run, her third of the season.

“It was a good time to have a solid day at the plate,” Booker said, as she is trying to break out of a season-long hitting slump.

“It boosted my confidence a lot, because I’ve been struggling,” Booker said. “I’ve been really working hard, I’ve been doing what I can to fix my swing and work the kinks out; it’s a really big confidence booster when you see it working and paying off.”

It can be tough on any athlete when they aren’t performing as well as they want to be, but Booker said she hasn’t been focusing on anything other than getting better.

“That really helps when you just try to focus on the little things, like when you’re up at the plate and just really trying to hit a strike and not thinking about ‘Oh I have to do this, I have to do all this stuff’,'” Booker said. “Just swing the bat and hit the ball.”

Murphy said that even if a player isn’t hitting well, they can still contribute solid production. He said Booker plays great defense, and pointed to a specific throw she made over the weekend as being a jaw-dropping kind of play. He also said that an at-bat doesn’t have to end in a hit to be successful.

“Just execute and play good defense,” Murphy said. “If I give you a drag bunt, get it down, move a runner and play great defense, because you’re still going to help the team.”

The home run against the Bulldogs Sunday helped cap off the win for the Crimson Tide, and Booker said it gave her a lot of confidence.

“That was probably the most excited I’ve been off of one of my own home runs, just because I’ve been slumping and I’ve been not playing as much because I’m in a hitting slump, so that was really nice,” Booker said.

Booker and freshman Claire Jenkins have primarily handled the shortstop position. The two have an almost identical number of starts, and Booker said they share a collegial rivalry.

“We don’t get mad at each other,” Booker said. “It’s just a friendly competition, we like to build each other up. Before the game Sunday, the same pitcher was pitching and she was telling me what she’d thrown her the night before, so we really help each other out with that stuff. It’s not like a weird vibe or anything.”

Booker said she’s been taking extra batting practice to work on her swing, and she even found old game film from good performances she’s had in the past to study before the Arkansas series two weeks ago.

“I pulled up videos of when I’d played good to reaffirm myself, and just remind myself that I can do this,” Booker said. “I didn’t want to let myself prevent myself from doing well.”

Murphy said part of the challenge of being a coach is giving advice to his players in those types of situations.

“I agonize over what to say, what not to say, too much, too little, because I feel like whatever I might say is going to be the wrong thing so then I end up saying very little because I don’t want it to be taken the wrong way,” Murphy said. “It’s just something that they’ve got to work through … it’s the crappy part of softball and baseball.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports