By (Ehsan Kassim)

Gaby Callaway felt her freshman season was a rollercoaster.

She put a lot of pressure on herself to perform, as she thought would not get an opportunity if she failed. That hurt her consistency.

This season, Callaway is focused on being more consistent and has been the cleanup hitter from the Alabama Crimson Tide softball team.

Callaway has been playing with a new confidence early on in the new season.

“I feel really locked in this year and it just seems like there is a lot less pressure,” Callaway said. “Looking back at last year, it’s obvious you’re going to keep getting at bats. We need all 19. I think that’s what I brought to this year knowing it takes everybody.”

Alabama is 5-0 in the games Callaway has started. She had Sunday afternoon off against Baylor as a regular rest day, the lone game Alabama has lost.

On the season, she has six hits in 15 at bats, good for a .400 batting average. Callaway has driven in six runs, collected two doubles, a triple, walked twice and struck out just once.

“I think I’ve become a better hitter with two strikes,” she said. “I feel like I’ve done a better job, Alyson (Habetz, associate coach ) talks a lot about having a plan at the plate, this year it’s been easier for me to commit to that plan.”

Having a plan and seeing what pitchers throw her have helped Callaway in establishing more consistency this season.

“I think with the not putting too much stress on it and just if I get out in the first at bat, I have a new plan for the second at bat, and if I get out the second at bat, I have a better plan the third at bat,” she said. “I feel like I am more adaptable this year. I’ve just made better adjustments.”

Head coach Patrick Murphy sees a new player in Callaway, one that better knows the ins-and-outs of the program.

“I think she’s just settled in and she’s a lot more confident,” Murphy said. “Last year she didn’t know what I liked, what I wanted, practices and everything. It was new to her. And now this year, totally different kid. That goes for all the sophomores, all of them are much more relaxed and a lot more confident.”

Murphy asked the players what they would like to be known for this season on a “Get to know me sheet.” Callaway wrote she wanted to be “a consistent RBI producer.”

For Murphy, that was a relief, as he wanted someone to step up and want that role, one he feels is the key for the team to put runs on the scoreboard.

“Probably since Sept. 4, when we started hitting, she’s been one of the most consistent,” Murphy said. “She’s been like that in preseason. She probably hit the best off our pitchers and then she’s continues into the season. She’s worked really hard. She works as hard as anyone on the team.”

Alabama is 5-1 early on. It went 3-1 last weekend at the Black and Gold Tournament, with a loss against top 10-ranked Baylor ending the weekend.

The Crimson Tide host the East Bama Bash this weekend, with Georgia State, Northern Iowa and Florida State coming to Tuscaloosa.

Callaway is hoping for a better result this weekend, against another top 10-ranked opponent, Florida State.

The Seminoles, according to Murphy, bring in two of the better pitchers in the country, in Meghan King and Kylee Hanson.

Callaway believes she and the team are ready for that pitching challenge that FSU will bring.

“Everybody says good pitching beats good hitting, so it just feels like a challenge that you can only come out on top,” Callaway said. “If I get a hit, great. If I have a good at bat and she still gets me out, great.”

Murphy knows that for Alabama to have a good weekend, the team is going to continue to need strong pitching.

“Our two and three pitchers are going to have to help us out like they did last weekend,” Murphy said. “I really like what I saw out of (Courtney) Gettins, because McNeese was ranked 24th, but she did a nice job with them. Only one ball was hit really hard and I was impressed. She’s getting better and better with every outing.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports