Alabama softball held a media availability this week in preparations for the coming 2022 season. The presser featured 24-year veteran head coach Patrick Murphy, NFCA Pitcher of the Year Montana Fouts, and senior transfer Ashley Prange.

As Murphy and Fouts lead the transition from the SEC Champion 'Team 25,' to a roster of multiple new faces from the NCAA transfer portal and freshman class, focuses of the 2022 squad include finding a new lead-off hitter and somehow replacing the batting abilities of catcher Bailey Hemphill.

The 2021 SEC Player of the Year holds Alabama's all-time home run record (64) and due to Hemphill's propensity of sending softballs into the next county, she also holds the SEC all-time record for walks (237).

'Murph' referenced struggles in the starting nine during the conference, but the struggle is not due to players leaving or to a lack of talent to fill the lineup card.

"The toughest thing for the coaching staff to do this year is writing a lineup, honestly," said Murphy.

"Out of the 16 hitters, all 16 could start somewhere else, for sure. The competition has been really good at practice."

New Team USA member Montana Fouts has pitched to junior catcher Abby Doerr in past games, however, 'Murph' hasn't named a true starter as Alabama picked up standout senior catcher Ally Shipman out of Tennessee in the transfer portal.

"Ally makes it really great and really easy to get along with," said Fouts.

"She came in and immediately it was like I had known her for years. Having a full catching staff has been great. From the moment all of them stepped on campus in August, they've been working together to make each other better."

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Infielder Ashley Prange, another upperclassmen transfer who is expected to make an immediate impact, made her first media appearance as a member of Alabama softball at the conference and is already enjoying her time at the Capstone.

"It's lived up to and exceeded my expectations," said Prange on her transfer from Ohio State.

"This has been an experience beyond anything I could've ever dreamed of. Feeling like you're known and valued for who you are - on and off the field, not just what you bring onto the field - has been like the greatest experience of my life. I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Team 26 opens the season in less than a month and will make its way to the Candrea Classic, hosted by the University of Arizona, for the season's first four scheduled matchups.

Alabama softball's first game of the year will be against Southern Utah on Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. CST in Tucson, Arizona. The Saturday doubleheader features a 4:30 p.m. game with Oregon State and a 7 p.m. matchup with No. 15 Arizona, closing the tournament on Sunday with a 12:30 meeting with New Mexico.

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