Another season of Florida State softball means another matchup with the Alabama Crimson Tide. To this point, the Seminoles and the Tide have had similar paths to today’s game, so far in Clearwater, both losing to UCLA. To help us preview the Crimson Tide, we welcome Gray Robertson, radio analyst at the Crimson Tide Sports Network, play by play voice on SEC Network, and co-host of the Out of the Box podcast.
Last season, Alabama lost their matchup against FSU in Tuscaloosa in a nail biter midweek game. This season, head coach Patrick Murphy looks to turn that tide. Here is everything you need to know about Alabama:
In the offseason, Alabama saw transfers out of the program, but added some transfers from the portal. What does the addition of Faith Hensley, Emma Broadfoot and Lauren Esman bring to the Crimson Tide?
Gray: I love the mindset that those three bring to the team. Faith Hensley always has a smile on her face, and Coach Murphy has described Lauren as a “ray of sunshine.” She’s truly beloved by all of her teammates and has helped formulate a cohesion that’s coursing through the team. Emma adds to all of that as well, but I really love her determination. She’s a fighter. She fought in the spring to earn a starting spot and is one of the toughest outs on the team.
Behind Montana Fouts in the circle, who do you expect to be the number two? What are the arms behind Montana like for Alabama?
Gray: I believe Lauren Esman will be the number two this year, for a couple reasons. One–she was already good when I watched her in the FGCL, but pitching coach Lance McMahon has helped her develop some more weapons in the circle. She utilized those really effectively in relief against UCLA and in her complete game win against Indiana. Two–there’s no film on her and nobody has faced her. Michigan didn’t let her pitch, so nobody really has a scouting report on Esman. Honestly, I may have seen her throw in competitive softball games more than anyone else because of the FGCL. In a world where film study has become so critical for offenses as teams put together offensive gameplans, the “surprise factor” for Lauren is a huge advantage. Elsewhere, Jaala Torrence and Alex Salter have improved since last season and are getting more swings and misses; the problem, though, is that their mistakes have been more costly than usual (home runs and XBH, in particular). Once those are trimmed down, I think you’ll see those two start to gain more confidence and see more innings.
Freshman Kenleigh Cahalan reclassified to get to Tuscaloosa a year early, and now is at the top of the lineup, what does having her a part of this team now bring to the batting order?
Gray: Cahalan has an incredible maturity about her, even at 17 years old. She never looks overwhelmed in the box; you can practically see her adjusting and figuring things out as she works. Cahalan rarely steps in without a plan, and her athleticism is off the charts. She’s going to be a special, special player.
What is the offensive identity of this team?
Gray: Part of the challenge this week is figuring out the answer to this question as all of the hitters identify their roles. I thought Saturday’s games showcased what this team can be going forward. Everybody stepped up in some capacity, and did so without trying to do too much. They just executed. A textbook example was Kali Heivilin in the 8th against UCF. With ITB, her job was to get a bunt down to move the runner at second. She didn’t, but she fought in the at-bat and launched a ball deep to right, far enough for Jenna Johnson to tag up and get to third. That was really impressive to me for a player who has improved leaps and bounds since last year. That’s a long way to say that I’m not sure there’s a true identity, but this offense has players who are capable of doing what needs to be done to score runs. I think that’ll come in a variety of ways all season long, which, as a person who covers this team and will see every game, should make things very entertaining.
How to watch
FSU and Alabama will play at 5 pm on ESPN