In the Mix

Under Patrick Murphy Alabama softball has become a national powerhouse, and that trend is expected to continue for the eighth year head coach. Of the two polls that rank college softball teams, Alabama is ranked No. 6 and No. 8 respectively.

Murphy has led the Tide to three Women's College World Series appearances. When some of the sports world is oft in a slump in the early summer, Murphy's squads have been featured on ESPN at the World Series in 2000, 2003 and again last year, keeping attention ostensibly on Tuscaloosa.

"We signed our first Californian this year," Murphy said. "One of the main reasons was that they watched us on TV the whole time in May and in June. That opened some doors. Facility wise, once they get here it's a no-brainer."

Signing a Californian, pitcher/hitter Charlotte Morgan, made waves in softball coaching circles. One of the notables in all of Alabama's World Series appearances was that Alabama was the only team without a Californian. California is known for its deep well of softball talent.

At a tournament where several of the country's top coaches were watching, Morgan "hit a home run, and she was pitching. There was a program and beside her name all it said was ‘committed.' Everybody kept saying, ‘Where's she going? where she going?' I never said a word.

Word got out that Morgan was indeed committed to Alabama, ‘one of the coaches slapped me on the back of the head and said, ‘I thought you didn't get girls from California.'

"It was a big smile on my face. When they came it was a perfect fit. We found the right one and she found the right one. I think it did surprise some people."

Murphy has eight new players on this year's squad, but returns all-everything hitter/pitcher Stephanie VanBrakle. She is a .294 career hitter and has 34 homeruns at Alabama. On the mound VanBrakle has a 1.65 career ERA and a 69-24 record. She tallied 341 strikeouts just last year.

I hope I saved her a little bit," Murphy said. "I hope there's a lot of gas left in her. Some kids come in and pitch 50 games as a freshman and two years later you look at them and go ‘what happened to her?'"

Murphy calls this year's team "the most versatile team we've ever had."

"I think it's wide open again," Murphy said.


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