Patrick Murphy Explains Alabama's Pitching Plan against Florida

Alabama ace Kayla Beaver was lifted after four innings for Jocelyn Briski, and Alea Johnson made her first appearance since early May.
Jun 2, 2024; Oklahoma City, OK, USA;  Alabama Crimson Tide starting pitcher Kayla Beaver (19) throws a pitch in the first inning during a Women's College World Series softball losers bracket elimination game against the Florida Gators at Devon Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 2, 2024; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide starting pitcher Kayla Beaver (19) throws a pitch in the first inning during a Women's College World Series softball losers bracket elimination game against the Florida Gators at Devon Park. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports / Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

OKLAHOMA CITY– On the biggest stage, in the biggest moment of Sunday's elimination game against Florida, Alabama sophomore pitcher Alea Johnson made her first appearance of the NCAA tournament.

No. 4 Florida had runners on first and third with one out in the sixth inning and its RBI-leader, Jocelyn Erickson at the plate. Johnson came in to relieve freshman Jocelyn Briski and gave up a three-run home run to Erickson, which broke the game open for the Gators.

It was the first home run Erickson had hit off of a changeup this season. Erickson had scouted Alabama's pitching and was prepared for what Johnson might throw.

"She had pitched me multiple changeups already," Erickson said after the game. "[I was] just ready to do something big for my team."

Florida would go on to win 6-4, eliminating No. 14 Alabama from the Women's College World Series.

Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said it was a matchups decision to have Johnson pitch to Erickson. After Alabama had a day of rest on Saturday, Murphy started ace Kayla Beaver in the circle. She was lifted after four innings for Briski, who was then replaced by Johnson.

Beaver allowed six hits and two runs over those four innings and was getting hit pretty hard by the potent Florida offense. Florida had struggled at the plate so far in the Women's College World Series, but had one of the best offenses in the SEC and college softball this season averaging over 7.5 runs per game. After the game, Murphy explained Alabama's pitching plan against the Gators.

"They're such a good hitting team," Murphy said. "I just think you have to show them different looks. I think when she [Beaver] left, was it 2-2. We had full faith in everybody else.

"The walks hurt us a little bit 'cause they're going to get their hits. You can't give up freebies."

Florida reached base three times on free passes: two walks and a costly error one batter ahead of Erickson in the sixth inning. Florida head coach Tim Walton said his team had prepared for all of Alabama's pitchers.

"I actually thought Briski was going to start today given some of the matchups recently," Walton said. "With a day off yesterday, everything made sense. I'm one of those, I don't really put too much stock into what the other team does. They know their team better than I do. We just got prepared. We prepared for Alea Johnson last time with a lot of film and some prep there, too. She didn't pitch against us in the series down there."

Erickson's home run gave the Gators a four-run lead, but Alabama battled back with two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to cut the deficit to two runs.

"We had the tying run at the plate in the sixth," Murphy said. "As a coach, that's what you ask for. Just give me the tying run up to bat, and let's see what happens. We had bases loaded I think and one out. Just maybe one hit short there. I really thought we were going to do it in the bottom of the seventh."


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Katie Windham

KATIE WINDHAM

Katie Windham is the assistant editor for BamaCentral, primarily covering football, basketball gymnastics and softball. She is a two-time graduate of the University of Alabama and has covered a variety of Crimson Tide athletics since 2019 for outlets like The Tuscaloosa News, The Crimson White and the Associated Press before joining BamaCentral full time in 2021. Windham has covered College Football Playoff games, the Women's College World Series, NCAA March Madness, SEC Tournaments and championships in multiple sports.