TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Right as conference play was getting started last season, Alabama softball lost one of its best hitter to a season-ending injury.
In the second SEC series against Tennessee, freshman shortstop Bailey Dowling tore her ACL and MCL in a collision with a Tennessee baserunner. At the time of the injury, Dowling and Bailey Hemphill were going back and forth for the team leads in almost all the major hitting categories like batting average, RBIs and home runs.
Hemphill graduated and is gone, but on Thursday, Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy gave some encouraging news about the status of Dowling.
"She had knee surgery in March or April and is 100 percent, doing really well, crushing the ball," Murphy said. "I think she's going to be one of the best hitters we've ever had here."
It's quite the compliment for Dowling from Murphy who is now entering his 24th season as head coach of the Crimson Tide. At the time of her injury, Dowling was leading the team in home runs with six and RBIs with 25. She started all 25 games she played in as a true freshman before the injury batting .306. Dowling did not participate in any of Alabama's fall ball games back in October as she was still recovering from the injury.
"When she gets the barrel [of the bat], it goes a long, long ways and she's been doing great," Murphy said.
Despite only playing in 25 games, she finished third on the team in home runs behind Hemphill and Kaylee Tow. Dowling will play shortstop or second base for the Crimson Tide this season according to Murphy. The Alabama head coach is confident in several players to play along the infield and called making this year's lineups a moving puzzle.
Alabama is No. 2 in the preseason poll and will open the season in less than a month at the Candrea Classic in Arizona on Feb. 11.