By (Ehsan Kassim)

The taste of defeat from last year still stings the Alabama Crimson Tide softball team. It finished 46-18 and made a run to the super regional round of the NCAA Tournament in 2017.

The Crimson Tide fell to SEC rival Florida Gators in the super regional and had to watch the College Softball World Series from home.

“I wanted to be there so badly,” junior catcher Reagan Dykes said.

Dykes played in 58 games last season, including 49 starts, hit four home runs and owned a .367 on base percentage in 2017.

Head coach Patrick Murphy invited the returning players from last season to his house when the team returned to campus for closure on the 2017 season.

“We talked about last year and then he said, ‘We’re done talking about it. It’s a new year, new team,’” Dykes said. “That’s the mindset we took on it. We don’t think back on last year, because we can’t do anything about it.”

Dykes, along with Bailey Hemphill (first base), Demi Turner (second base), Sydney Booker (shortstop) and Peyton Grantham (third base) return as the same infield Alabama fielded last year, along with outfielders Elissa Brown and Merris Schroder.

Ace Alexis Osorio is the only returning pitcher for Alabama, with Sydney Littlejohn graduating last May and Madi Moore taking a medical disqualification.

Alabama will depend on freshman Madison Preston and junior college transfer Courtney Gettins pitching behind Osorio.

Part of Dykes’ responsibility will be to help get new pitchers ready to go for the season.

“It’s just a new group of girls, so we’re building a new group chemistry that we all work together and have the same goals and the same goal-set at the end of the season,” Dykes said.

Gettins does have big game experience, which Murphy thinks will help her succeed against SEC opponents.

“Courtney pitched for team New Zealand, she’s got some big game experience against Japan and the USA. That’s going to help her,” Murphy said.

Alabama has a nice balance of experience and youth on the team. The team boasts six seniors, four juniors, four sophomores and five freshman.

Dykes believes it’s up to the elder players to get the freshman ready for the challenges of playing in the SEC.

“We just have to realize this is the SEC and it’s the best conference in the country right now,” Dykes said. “Just being an upperclassman, you have to get that in the freshman’s mindset, that you have to come out and compete everyday. Nothing is given to you.”

Murphy likes the depth of the team and believes the team is two-deep at every position. Ordering the roster based on talent from 1-19 is a difficult task for him.

“I don’t even know who would be the last person, if we did that,” he said. “I think everyone sees the talent of the group and it’s exciting to see it. There is a lot of really good depth.”

Alabama’s offense struggled at time last season, but the defense helped carry the team. Murphy expects more of that this season.

“The team defense from what I’ve seen could be really, really good,” Murphy said. “I think the team defense could be the best it has ever been.”

Alabama opens its season on Feb. 8 at South Alabama and then will head to the Gulf Shores to play in the Sand Dollar Classic, where it will face Central Arkansas, Lamar, Penn State and Virginia Tech.

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports