The first sea
son is over.
Bring on the second season.
That's the mindset of the Alabama softball team, which will enter Southeastern Conference play this weekend with a perfect 20-0 record.
So what has it gotten the Crimson Tide so far? Nothing outside of a great start, although No. 2 Alabama is 5-0 against ranked opponents, outscoring them 31-1, plus the pitching staff has already posted nine shutouts.
The idea is to keep that all in the rearview mirror, in part due to there being eight other SEC teams ranked in the latest polls including this weekend's opponent, No. 21 LSU. Plus, Alabama will host the team that knocked it out of the last year's Women's College World Series, Florida State, on Wednesday (the Seminoles are No. 3).
"Clean slate," three-time All-American Kaylee Tow said.
"LSU and Alabama, it runs a little deep ... We have a lot of people that this is going to be their first SEC series."
But there's also a lot of familiarity that will come into play as well in Baton Rouge.
LSU (17-6) only has one senior listed on the roster, although similar to Alabama that's a little misleading. The Tigers return 19 players from last year's team, including five of its seven pitchers: 2019 All-American Shelbi Sunseri (she's the senior), Ali Kilponen, Shelby Wickersham, Morgan Smith and Taylor Edwards.
Alabama's lone returning senior is pitcher Montana Fouts, while Tow is a graduate student. The two other seniors transferred in during the offseason, and have as much experience with their new teammates as the six true freshmen.Scroll to Continue
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Meanwhile, Tow and Fouts were on the 2019 Crimson Tide team that got off to the best start in program history, 33-0. That team went 60-10, but finished one win short of reaching the WCWS finals.
"They've just been terrific with everyone," Murphy said about his leaders, "and obviously there's a lot of new kids.
"Our goal from the very beginning has been — we call it the power of tiny gains — just improve a little bit at a time."
It was one of the messages the players also heard during a recent visit with Nick Saban. When the football coach mentioned how he talks to his team about improving every day, not worrying about the scoreboard, not being concerned with the team's record, and just focussing on playing ball, it resonated.
"They're not going to get cocky," Murphy said.
However, it should be noted that the coach doesn't believe in the idea a loss can be good for a team. He concedes that you learn more from a loss, "But I'd rather win, I guess."
Scouting No. 21 LSU Softball
• LSU has a four-game winning streak, and 11 of 12. The lone loss was to Troy 5-4 on March 4.
• Three of the Tigers' losses were at the St. Pete/Clearwater Invitational, to Washington, Notre Dame and Michigan.
• The Tigers were picked to finish sixth in the Southeastern Conference by the coaches.
• Ali Kilponen and Taylor Pleasants earned a spot on the Preseason All-SEC Team. Pleasants was also named to the Top 50 USA Softball Watch List and to the USA Softball National Team in early January.
• Ali Kilponen (8-2) leads the pitching staff with 60.1 innings pitched. Her 55 strikeouts rank No. 7 in the SEC and her 17 strikeouts looking is the third most in the conference.
• Shelbi Sunseri is 5-1 in the circle and also leads the team with eight home runs. Sunseri is batting .291 behind 16 hits and 22 RBIs, and has four complete games, one shutout and one save.
• Danieca Coffey has thrashed opposing pitchers all season long as she leads the team with a .440 batting average with 33 hits (No. 3 in the NCAA and SEC) and has 10 RBIs on the season.
• Ciara Briggs has reached base in every game this season and is batting .432 with 32 hits (No. 5 in the NCAA and SEC), 24 runs, nine RBIs and one home run.
• Georgia Clark ranks No, 9 in the country with 26 RBIs and leads the team with 13 two-out ribbies. Clark has six home runs this season and is bating .277.
Head coach Beth Torina is in her 11th season at LSU softball and has coached the Tigers to four Women’s College World Series appearances, including three-straight from 2015-17.
Under Torina, the Tigers are averaging 42 wins per season.
Torina has a total of 428 wins at LSU and 557 total wins as a NCAA D1 head coach. She earned her 500th career victory February 21, 2020 with a no-hitter against Sam Houston State, thrown by Shelby Wickersham.
How To Watch
What: No. 2 Alabama at No. 21 LSU
Where: Tiger Park, Baton Rouge, La.
When: The game times have changed due to projected inclement weather. Instead of opening the series on Friday night, the teams will play a doubleheader Saturday at 1 p.m. CT. Sunday's game is set for a 2 p.m. start,
TV/Live Video: All three games will be on WatchESPN. One or more of the games could be moved to a network broadcast so keep an eye on SEC Network for changes.
Radio: 97.5 FM | nick975.com