Tag Archives: softball

Alabama softball ambushes Florida, coach Murphy in SEC title game mauling

Patrick Murphy takes ice water bath after Tide wins SEC title (Daily Bama Blog photo)

Take a look over today’s print story dealing with Alabama’s softball SEC title it wrapped up yesterday …

TUSCALOOSA— Quietly stalking their prey, Jazlyn Lunceford and Cassie Reilly-Boccia crouched low, Gatorade bucket in hand.

Just as the TV interview ended, they pounced. A startled ESPN reporter was collateral damage when it was time for Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy’s ice-water bath.

It wasn’t the first ambush of the day, either.

The third-ranked Crimson Tide crushed No. 7 Florida 10-1 in the SEC tournament championship, becoming the first event host to celebrate at home. It was the fifth title in program history and the only the second to follow an SEC regular-season championship.

Murphy, the league coach of the year, knew something was up just before the water came his way Saturday afternoon.

“Well, (ESPN reporter) Holly Rowe asked some question that was totally off the wall,” Murphy said. “I think she was trying to get me to stay there for a while, stalling for the team.”

Before the soaking, Murphy took quite a risk. He opted to rest ace pitcher Jackie Traina instead of sending her out for third straight outing. The SEC pitcher of the year said she was sore before the game, so he sent Amanda Locke to the circle for only her fifth start.

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‘They’re all going to be gunning for us’

The SEC softball tournament begins today in Tuscaloosa. Here’s a quick primer before top-seed Alabama faces Mississippi State at 7 on ESPN …

TUSCALOOSA — Home is sweet unless you’re hosting the SEC softball tournament.

Not once in the eight years postseason games were played on campus has the home team walked away a champion. Therein lies the challenge for Alabama.

The No. 1-seeded Crimson Tide, ranked third nationally, won’t travel when opening the single-elimination, eight-team tournament at 7 tonight with Mississippi State. SEC bracket play returns to Tuscaloosa for the first time since 2004, and the four-time champion Tide are positioned to end the curse of the host.

Also qualifying was seventh-seeded Auburn. The Tigers (33-20) meet No. 2-seed Tennessee (45-9) in the second quarterfinal at 1:30 p.m.

For Alabama, just winning a third straight regular-season title won’t guarantee anything.

Named SEC coach of the year Wednesday, Tide coach Patrick Murphy called this the most competitive eight-team tournament outside the Women’s College World Series.

So taking the home-field advantage for granted isn’t an option.

“They’re all going to be gunning for us,” Murphy said. “That’s the fact of life. I’ve said it a million times, and (Alabama basketball coach) Anthony Grant came and talked to us a month ago. That’s the first thing he said. ‘You know you have a target on your back, right?’

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Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy faces tough decision entering SEC tourney

Work the ace or rest her? That’s the decision facing Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy this week.

As the top seed in the SEC tournament the Crimson Tide hosts this week, winning for the home crowd is important. Murphy acknowledged that. But there could be a cost to winning a league postseason crown.

Besides the hometown support and adding hardware to the trophy case, the Tide has little to gain this week in Rhodes Stadium. A No. 3-overall seed in the NCAA tournament is practically locked down.

So does Murphy send ace pitcher Jackie Traina to mound circle for what could be three straight games with NCAA play looming just days later? Murphy pondered his move a day before facing Mississippi State in the 7 p.m. quarterfinal televised by ESPN.

“You have to figure out as a coach and a program if you want to throw your No. 1 for three straight days and you see what happens,” Murphy said.

So will he?

“I don’t know yet,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s important to us, obviously. We’re at home and we want to pack the stands and we want to do whatever we can for the sport of softball.”

Traina, named SEC pitcher of the year, said she feels great. But she isn’t exactly on full rest. She pitched all three games of last weekend’s SEC-clinching series win over Florida.

Remember, of the four previous times the Tide won the SEC regular season title, it claimed postseason glory just once. Kelsi Dunne started all three games of the 2010 SEC tournament championship run.

Read more about this in tomorrow’s newspaper.


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Watch Tide softball ace throw equivalent of 100+ MPH pitches (video)

You’ve heard about the speed and movement of elite softball pitchers. Now take a look at just how fast and difficult it is hitting Alabama ace Jackie Traina from behind the catcher. Her pitches reach the low 70s on the radar gun. According to this chart, the baseball equivalent is in the 101+ MPH range.

 


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Today in print: Return of the Patrick Murphy

The news broke last night, but here’s what ran in today’s newspaper. On a side note, send up a special thought for Clarence Clemons — a charter member of my personal Mount Rushmore — after the E Street Band saxophonist suffered a stroke last night. Now, back to Alabama news:

And … he’s back.

Just two days after a news conference announced Patrick Murphy’s hiring as the LSU softball coach, a short news release revealed he reneged on the deal. He’s coming back to Alabama.

The coach who built Alabama into a national power in 13 seasons in charge stunned the program with a late-week departure for an SEC West rival. He turned the bus around Sunday and the Crimson Tide program welcomed him back. His contract status is still unclear after resigning Thursday to head to LSU, which reportedly was set to make him one of the sport’s top-paid coaches.

Murphy simply had a change of heart.

“LSU offered me a great opportunity, but I realized once I got there that I had made a mistake that had nothing to do with LSU,” Murphy said in a statement released by Alabama. “I realized that I belong at Alabama. Alabama is where my heart is, and I cannot in good conscience try to do a job in which I am not totally committed beyond any doubt. I can honestly say that the last few days have only made it clear that Alabama is where I want to be — beyond any doubt. It would have been totally unfair to everyone at LSU — especially the players — for me to be conflicted at all about where I was.”

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BREAKING: Patrick Murphy backs out of LSU job

Patrick Murphy accepted the LSU job Friday, backed out Sunday. (Photo by LSU media relations)

Just days after he accepted the head softball job at LSU, former Alabama coach Patrick Murphy could be headed back to Tuscaloosa. This is getting even more interesting. Here’s the release from LSU and athletics director Joe Alleva doesn’t sound happy:

BATON ROUGE – LSU has re-opened its search for a new softball coach after Patrick Murphy reneged on his decision to coach the Tigers, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva announced Sunday.

“I am very disappointed in Patrick’s decision after he had committed to be our head coach,” said Alleva. “I am especially disappointed for the young women on our team to whom he gave every indication he was in this for the long haul. We will use this opportunity to find a coach who will be the right leader for our student-athletes, who will wear the purple and gold with pride and will lead the softball program with integrity.”

Here’s what Murphy said in his introductory news conference Friday in Baton Rouge. Click here for a photo gallery from the announcement and here for video of his Murphy’s comments.

“The toughest part of this for me was telling my players (at Alabama) that I was leaving. Believe me when I say it was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do. The toughest thing about that is when I would call them the first thing they would say to me is ‘Are you doing OK?’ That’s that type of kids we had at Alabama, and that’s the type of kids we want at LSU because they were great people. It’s a testament to the type of kids we recruited there.”

The obvious conclusion would be Murphy is coming back to Alabama. I’m still trying to nail down those details.

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Today in print: Patrick Murphy leaves Bama for LSU

Here’s the story that ran in print today:

Stunning news awaited Alabama softball players when phones rang Thursday.

On the other end was coach Patrick Murphy, who called each player individually to inform them he was leaving the Crimson Tide program for one of its chief rivals.

Four days after Alabama finished the program’s deepest run at the Women’s College World Series, its architect accepted the head coaching job at LSU. Tide players were not in Tuscaloosa on Thursday, so Murphy had to use the phone to break the news.

The move was especially surprising considering Murphy’s tenure spanned the entirety of Alabama’s softball existence. He was an assistant during the first two seasons of play before taking over as head coach in 1999. In the 13 years that followed, Murphy turned the Tide into a national power. Alabama regularly drew crowds among the largest in the country, and a new plush clubhouse opened last year at the expanded Rhoades Stadium.

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UPDATED: Tornado not stopping Bama bids to host NCAA softball, baseball

Update: For the full print story, click here or here.

The University of Alabama is pushing ahead with bids to host NCAA baseball and softball tournament regionals later this month as the area copes with massive damage from the April 27 tornado.

UA spokesman Doug Walker said the softball bid was submitted long before the storm ripped through Tuscaloosa. The school has been in contact with hotel partners who assured there would be enough room for out-of-town fans along with the army of relief workers.

The Crimson Tide softball team has a much greater chance of playing at home in the postseason since its among national attendance leaders and ranked in the top-5 of the major polls. The baseball team is still fighting for a spot in the SEC tournament and is certainly no lock to play in the NCAAs, much less host the first round.

Fortunately, most hotels in the area escaped major damage so capacity was not reduced. A quick search of available rooms during the May 19-22 softball regionals showed most were booked, though. Most vacancies were located on the fringe of the city.

UA softball hosted both regionals and super-regionals last season in front of packed crowds. The Tide baseball team last hosted a regional in 2006 though its missed NCAA competition just once since then.

Read more later.

Update: Speaking with Toby Wilson, the manager of the Hampton Inn located a fly ball away from the softball complex, accommodating guests for the NCAA tournament could be an issue.

“I’m sure it’s going to be tough,” he said.

Update 5:56 p.m.: Alabama associate athletics director Marie Robbins said the school’s been assured hotel space will be available for visiting teams without displacing storm victims.

Hosts and pairings will be announced Sunday.

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Back in the saddle

After a long weekend in horse country, this sports writer is back in Bama and back to the grind.

While I was away, the Alabama women’s golf team won a regional title and the softball team clinched the SEC regular-season title.  The baseball Tiders took two of three from LSU in the first athletic action in Tuscaloosa since the April 27 tornadoes.

Now that I’m back, I’ll be working on a few projects that were on hold during spring football and the tornado aftermath. The blog will be updated once again. Now, I leave you with the panoramic view I had from Sect. 111 in Churchill Downs for last Friday’s running of the Kentucky Oaks.

Click to enlarge this view of the first turn at Churchill Downs.

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Tough weekend on the diamond for Tide

Things were going well for both the Alabama softball and baseball programs. Then came this past weekend.

Both had road series go awry and LSU swept the No. 1 Tide softball team in Baton Rouge. In Nashville, the SEC West-leading Alabama baseball team got the same treatment at No. 1 Vanderbilt.

The softball team lost 2-0 on Sunday in spite of throwing a combined no-hitter. The Tigers took advantage of errors, walks and the such to finish off the sweep. The first two games went to extra innings before Alabama lost.

Back in Nashville, the Commodore baseballers outscored the Tide 29-6 including a 7-0 shutout Saturday.

‘Other’ Tide sports climb rankings

They don’t get the attention that football and basketball pull in, but it’s worth noting the other Crimson Tide sports that have risen to the nation’s elite. Here’s how these programs stack up in the rankings:

  • Women’s golf: No. 1 (unanimous)
  • Softball: No. 2
  • Gymnastics: No. 3
  • Men’s golf: No. 5

While you’re here, check out updated panoramic album.