After a long wait Alabama finally gets to host the SEC Softball Tournament.
The Crimson Tide was set to host the event last year until the pandemic shut down spring athletics in March.
“This is the best 13-team tournament in the country,” Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. “There is going to be some really good games and some high-level softball.”
The last time Alabama hosted the tournament was 2012. That’s the year the Crimson Tide won the tourney and the Women’s College World Series title.
Alabama (42-7) is the No. 3 seed and plays its first game Thursday against Georgia or Kentucky.
The Crimson Tide enters the SEC tournament having just received some top individual honors. Montana Fouts was named the SEC Co-Pitcher of the Year while Bailey Hemphill was voted SEC Player of the Year.
Both were All-SEC first team, along with Alexis Mack and Elissa Brown. Kaylee Tow was second-team All-SEC and KB Sides was an All-SEC Defensive team pick. All are seniors except for Fouts.
“All of them play softball for the love of the game and for the love of their teammates,” Murphy said. “They don’t do it for the awards. We called Bailey and I said, ‘Congratulations,’ and she said, ‘for what?’ She didn’t even realize that this was the day (of the announcement) and she said, ‘Oh, thank you,’ and everything was back to normal.
“All seven (seniors) have brought the program back to the highest levels. It’s been a pleasure to coach them all.”
Lexi Kilfoyl and Savannah Woodard earned All-SEC Newcomer team honors.
Alabama is riding a wave of momentum with a 10-game win streak and playing well in all phases. Still, Murphy thinks the offense needs to focus on one particular aspect this week.
“The biggest thing that we could be better at is fewer strikeouts, and just keep putting the ball in play,” Murphy said. “I want more walks than strikeouts. One of the best at it has been Bailey Hemphill. She only struck out one time in the SEC in 24 games.”
Hemphill leads the league with 27 walks. Alabama is second in SEC play with fewest strikeouts (97) and also second in most walks (90). Alabama is tops in league games only in average (.311), hits (204) and tied for first in runs (138).
“I want to put the ball in play no matter what, and make the defense make a play,” Murphy said. “When you put the ball in play things are going to happen.”