Feb. 4, 2013
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – As the season looms rolltide.com is going to preview the Alabama softball team. The second edition sheds light on the fleet-footed outfield, led by senior Kayla Braud.
What has been considered one of the fastest outfields in the country over the last few years will have different faces in 2013 but hopefully the same results.
Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy must replace two outfield spots after losing All-American Jennifer Fenton and one of the top defensive corner outfielders in the country in Jazlyn Lunceford to graduation, but the cupboard isn’t bare.
With two-time All-American Kayla Braud back for her senior season in left field, Murphy can rotate multiple freshmen around in the outfield, in addition to senior Keima Davis, a player Murphy says has the best arm on the team. To top it off, all four can leadoff, giving the outfield an element of speed.
Braud, a two-time NFCA All-America selection and three-time All-SEC performer will look to etch her name in Alabama record books. The senior enters the season ranked second in batting average (.427), on-base percentage (.507) and stolen bases (144).
“I think that this year we will have the fastest outfield that we have ever had,” Murphy said. “Keima has been unlucky in the fact that she has had to sit behind a Jaz and Jen but she has also been lucky that she has had the opportunity to learn from them and watch them. Now Keima will get every opportunity in the world to take a spot. She has the best arm on the team and is one of the fastest kids on the team.”
The seniors will be looked upon greatly for leadership as talented newcomers Haylie McCleney and Andrea Hawkins vie for playing time in their first season at the Capstone.
“Haylie is a lefty-lefty, has one of the best gloves that we have ever had as a freshman,” Murphy said. She has made plays in practice that jaw-dropped the entire team. She has really good game sense.
“Andrea is almost a clone of Brittany Rogers, throws right, hits left. She is extremely fast and a true athlete. The more we polish her, the better she is going to be with her speed and her power. They will both be triple threats like Braud is. It is rare that a lefty can slap, have a short game and drag bunt and hit away for power. It is not very often that happens.”
Those two freshmen are going to be looked upon to replace 483 games played between Fenton and Lunceford. Fenton capped off her Alabama career in impressive fashion, batting .386 with 66 runs, 40 RBI and 44 stolen bases. Lunceford hit .317 with eight home runs, 40 RBI and 13 stolen bases.
One thing is for certain under the leadership of Coach Murphy, the Tide will be aggressive on the base paths. Over the last several years Alabama has been one of the top base stealing teams in all of softball. On top of the speed, Braud, Fenton and Lunceford only combined for two errors in 2012.
Alabama will open its 2013 season at the UNI Dome Tournament in Cedar Falls, Iowa. UA will face Illinois in the opener on Friday, Feb. 8, with first pitch slated for 3 p.m.