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Crimson Tide Top 5: Softball

Throughout the month of June, Bama Central writers will pick the best five players in each Alabama sport, and for each position group in football

The Alabama softball program hasn’t been around as long as most of the other athletic programs –certainly not football.

So, you would think picking the top-five players for this sport wouldn’t be too difficult.

In 25 short years, however, the Crimson Tide has turned into a national powerhouse with a who’s who listing of top players.

Alabama cut its teeth on the softball diamond in 1997 and, if you will forgive the pun, came out swinging. The Crimson Tide quickly turned into a contender, winning an SEC Tournament title in its second year.

Since then, it’s been a meteoric rise to the top of the softball mountain for Alabama, including the program’s 13th Women’s College World Series appearance this week in Oklahoma City.

So here we got with the Crimson Tide Top 5 for softball, in reverse order:

5. Stephanie VanBrakle

She was one of the Crimson Tide’s first power pitchers. She was pretty good with a bat, too. Very good, in fact. VanBrakle was Alabama’s first two-way All-American, and helped the Crimson Tide win its first SEC championship in 2006.

In the circle she set a school record that stood for five years with 1,113 strikeouts, including 341 in 2005 and 345 in 2006. She finished her career with a 97-30 record and a 1.96 ERA.

At the plate VanBrakle was a .283 hitting with 40 home runs, 138 RBIs and 184 hits.

4. Bailey Hemphill

The Crimson Tide graduate is still writing her resume, competing in Oklahoma City this week at the Women’s College World Series. She still deserves a spot on this list when you consider what’s she is done so far.

Hemphill set a school record for career home runs (62) and tied the single-season mark (26 in 2019). She’s walked a program-best 233 times and needs just four more walks to set the SEC mark.

The 2021 SEC Player of the Year is second in school history with 235 RBIs and set a single-season RBI mark (84) in 2019. She’s a three-time All-SEC pick.

3. Haylie McCleney

The center fielder did it all as a four-year starter (2013-16) and continues to shine as a member of Team USA.

A three-time, first-team All-American, McCleney is the program’s all-time leader in average (.447), on-base percentage (.569), and triples (16).

McCleney was also known for her ability in the field, being named to the SEC All-Defensive Team three straight seasons. She was a first-team All-SEC selection, and a second-team All-American her freshman season.

She was 6-for-16 in the Women’s College World Series, where she helped the Crimson Tide to the championship series against Florida in 2014.

She’s a member of Team USA and will play in the Olympic Games this summer in Tokyo.

2. Jaclyn Traina

Had one of the best careers for an Alabama player, reaching two Women’s College World Series finals and winning a national championship.

Traina was lights out in the circle with a 106-21 record, 976 strikeouts, and a 2.03 ERA. A three-time, first-team All-American, Traina was also dangerous at the plate, hitting .326 with 38 home runs, 136 RBIs and 142 hits.

It’s the 2012 season that sets her above the rest. Her 42-3 record with 361 strikeouts and dominate performance in the WCWS, where she was named Most Outstanding Player, carried Alabama to its only national title.

1 Kelly Kretschman

Was there any doubt? There shouldn’t be. What didn’t Kretschman accomplish in her career (1998-2001)? 

We can start with the categories she ranks No. 1 in at Alabama: Games started (273), at-bats (842), runs (288), hits (368), doubles (65), triples (16), and until this season she was the career home run leader with 61.

We won’t even get into the single-season records.

You can throw Olympic gold (2004) and silver (2008) medals in that list, too.

She was the first Alabama superstar and led the program to its first Women’s College World Series appearance and a two-time, first-team All-American and two-time second-team All-American.

The Tide Top 5 will appear every day during the month of June on BamaCentral

Tide Top 5 Introduction

Crimson Tide Top 5: Linebackers