#6 Alabama Softball 2014 Preview

Alabama Crimson Tide

Overall Rank: #6
Conference Rank: #3 SEC
#6 Alabama Softball 2014 Preview
Alabama Team Page


There are many clichés in sports, including “It’s easier to get to the top than stay at the top.” Winners of it all in 2012, Alabama went from hunters to the hunted last year and got everybody’s best game. It showed, as the Crimson Tide slipped into a tie for seventh place in the SEC at 45-15 overall and just 13-11 in conference play. Starting the year on fire with 22 wins in as many games, they looked unstoppable in their quest to repeat as national champions. A funny thing happened on the way to the World Series, however, as ‘Bama went just 23-15 after March 2nd. A loss to Florida, then two of three dropped to Tennessee, the Tide righted the ship with a six game win streak but it was up and down from there. It wasn’t all bad (they ARE Alabama after all) as 2013 Senior Kayla Braud hit .471 to lead a team that averaged .331, scored 411 runs and stole 117 bases. For their efforts, Patrick Murphy’s crew held a national #10 ranking and hosted a regional, where they cruised through the four team bracket and bested a feisty Western Kentucky squad to advance. Conference nemesis Tennessee lay in wait in Knoxville to do some hunting of their own, and the Tide’s season ended one station short of their destination.

2013: 45-15, 13-10
2013 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Patrick Murphy, 16th year

Field Players:
The returning roster features three players on this year’s Top 50 Watch List. Centerfield sophomore Haylie McCleney had an incredible rookie season with a .465 average, 86 hits, 68 runs and 30 thefts; all team high among returning players. Jackie Traina not only pitched, but rapped out a .333 average with 13 homers and 45 RBIs, and second baseman Kaila Hunt, a fellow senior, led the Tide with 15 long balls and 60 runs batted in. Joining those three, senior Molly Fichtner (.313, 33 RBI) will again catch, and sophomore right fielder Andrea Hawkins brings back her .384 average and 13 stolen bases. Heck, even back-up senior Ryan Iamurri (Traina’s high school teammate) hit .370 in 54 at bats. Infielder super-preps Marissa Runyon and Peyton Grantham join the team and will provide added depth.

All-Everything senior Traina’s innings were cut drastically last year after throwing almost 290 innings the year before, and her ERA spiked to 2.49 from 1.87.  She still was effective with a 19-8 record and 214 strikeouts in 199.2 innings. She walked more per game (95 to 109 in 2012) but cut down on home runs given up (13/27). Junior Leslie Jury took on more responsibility and delivered at 18-7 in 19 starts. Not quite the power pitcher Traina is, she struck out 103 in 134 innings. Murphy will go with three hurlers, adding highly touted freshman Sydney Littlejohn.

Who to Watch:
The Big Four. Traina can do it all, and as a senior will be laying it all out there. Already a champion at every level ever attempted, she may be poised for a monster year in the circle and at the plate. Fichtner and Hunt provide much of the offense, and McCleney, though just a second year player, is a superstar.

Final Projection:
It’s hard to call a 45 win season disappointing, but Alabama has a higher bar than most. There is just one goal in mind, winning the last game played in 2014, and Murphy has the arsenal to accomplish just that. They need to improve on their one-run games record (6-8) and versus ranked opponents (7-13), but make no mistake, this is a very good, very deep, very balanced team. Look for the Tide to come out with their sights on Oklahoma City, and end up one of the top eight seeds in the tournament. After all, Team Tuscaloosa is back to being hunters again.

Projected Postseason: NCAA Softball Tournament

Returning Leaders:
At Bats: Haylie McCleney, CF, 185
Hits: Haylie McCleney, CF, 86
Home Runs: Kaila Hunt, 2B, 15
RBIs: Kaila Hunt, 2B, 60
Runs: Haylie McCleney, CF, 68
Stolen Bases: Haylie McCleney, CF, 30

Wins: Jackie Traina, 19
Innings Pitched: Jackie Traina, 199.2
Strikeouts: Jackie Traina, 214
Saves: Traina and Jury, 1 each

Madness 2014 NPF Draft Rankings:
#1 Jaclyn Traina, P/UT
#9 Kaila Hunt, 2B

Madness 2014 Softball Recruit Rankings:
#10 Marissa Runyon, IF
#28 Peyton Grantham, IF
#35 Sydney Littlejohn, P


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