TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – As the Fall ball season came and went, we learned a lot about the 2024 Alabama softball team – a team that faces the tough task of replacing a number of talented players from last year’s squad.
The offense showed improvement from last season in which they were 10th in the SEC in batting average and eighth in runs scored.
“Our hitting has completely changed this year. Adam Arbour got added as our hitting coach this year and he’s been awesome,” said fifth year senior Jenna Johnson.
The offense averaged over 10 runs and hits per game. They also hit multiple home runs including Kendal Clark hitting two in the win over Jones College and Lauren Esman hitting the first one of the fall against Shelton State.
“Coach Arbour, he’s broken it down from swing mechanics to the mental side of things, too. And we really started from the beginning and rewired a lot of stuff,” said Johnson. “We’ve put up more runs than we ever have in a fall since we’ve been here. So, it’s exciting to see that translate.”
A lot of the success can be attributed to the fact it has not been just one player making it all happen. Whether it was Kenleigh Cahalan and Kristen White against Wallace State or Kali Heivilin and Marle Giles, everyone has done their part in this offense’s success.
“Our mindset in process over outcome,” said Murphy. “And whether you 0/4 you still have to know you’re a good hitter. So, I think they’re starting to get that a lot better.”
This is a team that lost their top two offensive leaders from last year including catcher Ally Shipman. Coach Murphy has turned to two sophomores: Riley Valentine and Marle Giles. Coach Murphy praised them for their arm talent and their ability to shut down the opposing team’s chances to steal bases. But both have also had success on offense. Against Shelton State, Valentine had multiple hits including an RBI double and against Chipola Giles had three hits and three RBIs.
“Marle Giles from her freshman year to sophomore year has completely grown,” said Johnson. “She’s a calm hitter. She’s a very mature hitter, and she’s going to make a big impact this year.”
Another step this offense has taken is in their ability to run the bases. In 2023 the team finished with just 67 stolen bases which was middle of the pack in the SEC. In the fall it was rare a hitter didn’t steal once they got on base.
“I think we got athletes at all the positions so we’re very very athletic this year which is going to be fun to watch,” said Murphy.
Lauren Johnson, Kinley Pate and M’kay Gidley all stole more than three bases in the fall. Whether it was on designed steals or reading balls in the dirt this group of players has pure instincts on the bases.
“We have the speed to steal a lot of bases this year and that’s a goal of ours,” said Johnson.
In 2023 the Tide were ranked dead last in slugging percentage. In the fall, there has been substantial growth in this team’s ability to hit more than just singles. The team hit three triples, five home runs and more than ten doubles. One player in particular Emma Broadfoot hit a triple and two home runs including one off the jumbotron.
“She’s really rewired a lot of stuff. She’s worked hard. She’s worked on her mental side of things,” said Johnson. “And so, she’s going to be a big impact in the spring this year.”
This team, which has national championship aspirations, knows there is plenty of work left to do. “This off time is when you’re going to separate yourselves from the rest of the pack,” said Johnson. “The SEC is the best conference to me every single year. It’s going to be competitive and that’s why you have to take this off time over winter break to make sure you’re ready for the spring season.”
Coach Murphy believes the key to taking the success from the fall and transferring it to the season comes down to pitch selection.
“Pitch selection to me is like the line of scrimmage in football,” said Murphy. “If you can control it, you’re going to win the game.”
The ability to adjust and communicate what the pitcher is doing out there is what Murphy believes is the biggest thing the team needs to work on.
“The first three do something the same. The next three don’t do it. You watch them and figure out what the pitcher is trying to throw,” said Johnson. “So quicker adjustments.”
The team finished 8-0 in the fall and looks to make another trip back to the College World Series. The regular season begins in February.