TUSCALOOSA The University of Alabama softball team conducted its first day of fall practice on Tuesday at the Alabama Softball Complex.
"It was a good feeling today,” said senior infielder Michelle Menningmann. “We talked about trying to come out our first day and not act like it was the first day. We wanted to be ready to go since we have 15 returnees. I think we did a good job with that and we came out here working hard. We reviewed a lot but didn’t have to go slow and teach a bunch of things. I think we had great effort for the first day."
The Crimson Tide return 15 players from the 2006 squad that claimed the school’s first SEC Championship and advanced to the College World Series for the second straight year and fourth time in the past seven seasons. The team finished last season with a 54-11 record and 25-4 mark in SEC play.
“It is the most returnees we have ever had,” said head coach Patrick Murphy. “We wanted today to feel more like the third week of practice than the first day and it panned out that way because the drills, batting practice and base running all went quicker. We wanted to make sure we hit every point along the way but we want to emphasize a more competitive practice, scrimmage a little bit more where something counts at the end and gets them to be more competitive with each other.”
Alabama has seven of its top eight hitters returning. Brittany Rogers led the team as a freshman last season with a .427 avg., 60 runs and 88 hits. Jordan Praytor, a junior, also hit over .400 with a .415 avg., 57 runs, 78 hits, 12 doubles, two triples and nine home runs. Kelley Montalvo, a sophomore second baseman, hit .287 with three home runs and 20 RBI. She was one of the standouts on the first day of practice.
“It was a big adjustment from last year to this year,” said Montalvo. “It took hard work and improvement on things. Especially this summer I tried to come in ready, not so much to learn but to perfect everything that I have learned from Coach Murphy. With everybody here helping me out, I feel more comfortable. Now that I know more than I did last year, I can help the newcomers and pass on everything that was taught to me.”
The top returner on the mound for the Crimson Tide is Chrissy Owens, a junior from Miami, Fla. She posted an ERA of 0.68 with a 21-5 record and 190 strikeouts.
Alabama will practice for three weeks this fall and host two Fall Brawls. They host Wallace-Hanceville and Jeff State on Sunday, Oct. 8. The next weekend on Saturday, Oct. 14 they will face Shelton State and Wallace-Dothan.