Traina New Ace For Bama Softball

You wouldn't want a root canal to last all day, would you? So if you are on a softball team facing Alabama pitcher Jackie Traina, isn't it good that the event lasts only a short time?

That was the case this week as the Alabama softball team of Coach Patrick Murphy had a scrimmage in preparation for the opening of the season this week in Mobile. He divided the team up for a scrimmage. Jackie Traina, an All-America last year as a freshman, took the mound and made life miserable to Crimson Tide hitters.

"I wish you could have seen it," Murphy told reporters. "She threw seven innings, gave up a bunt single, retired the other 20 batters, and the bunt single got thrown out. So she faced 21 batters in seven innings, struck out 12, no walks.

"She threw 68 pitches.

"It was the quickest scrimmage we've ever had."

Murphy said that new Pitching Coach Stephanie VanBrakle has had a positive effect on Traina. "They added a couple of pitches, a couple of tweaks," he said. "They've just done a really good job."

Traina is poised to take over as Bama's ace this year following the graduation of four-time all-star Kelsi Dunne.

VanBrakle is a familiar name to Alabama softball followers. She was a two-time All-America pitcher for Bama in a career that spanned 2003-06. She was four-time All-Southeastern Conference and SEC pitcher of the year. After p0laying professionally in 2007, she started a coaching career that included being head coach at both Birmingham Southern and Samford in Birmingham.

Murphy said, "She is the first former player that we have had on staff. She brings the ‘been there, done that, kicked butt and now I am going to bring it to you' mentality. She was probably the hardest working kid we have ever had in the circle. One of our sayings is ‘if you have a circle drawn around you, you better be the hardest working player on the team'. That is the focus of fast pitch; it is called fast pitch for a reason. She was bound and determined that the pitching staff was going to be the hardest workers on the team. I think that if you ask Jackie, (Lauren) Sewell, and Leslie (Jury), they are probably in the best shape of their lives. If they are not pitching they are running. She (VanBrakle) has been the task master of all that. She has done a great job. She is a different set of eyes. She can tweak here and there because she has done it before. It wasn't that long ago."

Although Traina is the ace, she is not all that Alabama has in the circle.

Murphy said, "Lauren Sewell has lost twice by 1-0 scores to Jackie, so she has been lights out. Amanda Locke is pitching again. She's got three really good pitches; we are going to use her like a short term reliever in baseball. Jadyn Spencer from Waterloo, Iowa has been pitching pretty well. We're thinking that maybe she could work a couple of days a week in the bullpen. She then pitched in the scrimmage and did really well and Steph (VanBrakle) said ‘I want her in the bullpen,' so she spends three to four days in the bullpen now. Leslie Jury, who is the stud of the freshmen class pitching wise, has been doing really well too.

"So we have five capable pitchers. Who was going to be behind Jackie was the big question mark for me. They all did really well in the scrimmage. We are really happy with the pitching."

Murphy related a practice technique.

"We usually start the scrimmages with a 1-1 count," he said. In the latest scrimmage "we did 1-1 count in the odd innings and a 0-0 count in the even innings. After the scrimmage was over, Kendall Dawson, our senior catcher, raised her hand and asked, ‘Can we get a 3-0 count and see if anyone can get on against her?'"

Traina is not just a pitcher. Last year she batted .351 with 13 home runs and 45 RBI.

In the scrimmage?

"She went 3-for-4," Murphy said. "She hit a home run over our new shed out in left-center that one-hopped the street. She's been great."

Alabama opens the season Friday at the University of South Alabama Classic in Mobile. The Tide will play four games in three days.

Murphy said, "The first game is Memphis who was here at our regional last year. They have probably one of the best junior pitchers in the country; she was very good last year. The next game is Lipscomb, who two years ago came to our regional and were the team that no one wanted to play and we got stuck with them. They had the ERA leader and the strikeout leader in the country, she is now a senior, she is very good. South Alabama is third, then Jacksonville State. Any time you play an instate school it is like the World Series. They will both be ready to play. All four will be really good games."

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