No. 2 Alabama Opens SEC Play at No. 21
Reigning SEC champion No. 2 Alabama (20-0) is set to open its conference schedule for the 2022 season and will take on the No. 21 LSU Tigers (17-6) in a three-game road series this weekend. While the Crimson Tide already has five ranked wins, it still faces a tough challenge against LSU when it comes to pitching due to the likelihood that junior RHP Lexi Kilfoyl will miss the full series.
However, as Alabama coach Patrick Murphy pointed out this week, Alabama has found success when put in a pinch on defense. Soph. RHP Jaala Torrence had the "biggest start of her career," against Texas according to Murphy as she recorded 3.1 innings with only one hit and one earned run.
Tide 100.9's Projected Starting Pitchers Against LSU:
Saturday (Game 1) - 1 p.m. CST: Senior RHP Montana Fouts (10-0 / 0.77 ERA / 54.2 IP)
Saturday (Game 2) - 4 p.m. CST: Soph. RHP Jaala Torrence (4-0 / 0.89 ERA / 31.1 IP)
Sunday (Game 3) - 2 p.m. CST: Senior RHP Montana Fouts (10-0 / 0.77 ERA / 54.2 IP)
At the team's media availability on Wednesday, Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said Kilfoyl had "pitched in practice on Tuesday" and was looking to be on the right track for her ankle injury suffered just before the Mardi Gras Mambo in February. While she isn't completely ruled out for the weekend, Murphy alluded to the fact that she may need some additional brief recovery time.
A noticeable difference between the two pitching staffs, when it comes to starters, is the number of innings pitched. While without Kilfoyl's injury, Alabama would be in the same position, LSU currently has two pitchers with over 50.0 innings pitched. Again, Alabama's pitching ability has had to spread out since the loss of Kilfoyl, meaning Jaala Torrence and Alex Salter have split the innings left vacant by Kilfoyl.
Saturday (Game 1): Senior RHP Shelbi Sunseri (5-1 / 1.63 ERA / 51.2 IP)
Saturday (Game 2): R-Jr. RHP Ali Kilponen (8-2 / 1.16 ERA / 60.1 IP)
Sunday (Game 3): Senior RHP Shelbi Sunseri (5-1 / 1.63 ERA / 51.2 IP)
Fouts, Torrence and Salter:
NFCA Pitcher of the Year Montana Fouts has only dialed up her characteristic production as Kilfoyl has missed some time. She has 12 appearances on the year and is recorded as the winning pitcher (10) in half of Alabama's games. While Tide fans are certain to see her in game one on Saturday, Fouts could be called on to relieve Torrence in game two and has a strong chance of starting on Sunday
As Alabama coach Patrick Murphy pointed out this week, the Crimson Tide has found success when put in a pinch against good offenses. Soph. RHP Jaala Torrence had the "biggest start of her career," against Texas according to Murphy as she recorded 3.1 innings with only one hit and one earned run. Torrence is likely to be called upon in another big spot on Saturday night but should be in a position to succeed as long as she gets some run support from the Bama offense.
While redshirt freshman Alex Salter has struggled in some appearances, she's still 3-0 on the season and has eaten up some serious innings in the absence of Kilfoyl. Salter has a 2.75 ERA through five appearances (four starts) and has only allowed eight earned runs across 20.1 innings of work. Depending on how far Fouts and Torrence can manage to go against LSU, there's a good shot Bama fans could see Salter in Sunday's game.
LSU's Early Hiccups & Bama's Offensive Firepower:
LSU has taken some lumps early in the 2022 season after starting as the No. 14 team in the country before the season. The Tigers are 3-2 against ranked opponents and are the owners of three non-conference losses just 23 games into the season. While their pitching can be a tough nut to crack for non-SEC opponents, once it's cracked LSU has to make up for the difference with a lackluster offense.
Alabama's offensive production in the 2022 season has been sporadic at times, however, it has always magically shown up when needed most. The four newcomers, transfer infielder Ashley Prange, transfer catcher Ally Shipman, freshman infielder Megan Bloodworth and freshman outfielder Dallis Goodnight, all have their own names littered throughout Alabama's offensive stat sheet and have replicated the offensive firepower of the stout Team 25.
Alabama's leaders in OPS? (Slugging % + On-Base %):
1) Ally Shipman (1.279); 2) Megan Bloodworth (1.246); 3) Dallis Goodnight (1.186); 4) Ashley Prange (1.152)
Alabama's leaders in hits?
1) Dallis Goodnight (26); 2) Ally Shipman (23); 3) Ashley Prange (16)
Alabama's leaders for home runs?
1) Megan Bloodworth (5); 2) Ally Shipman (4); 3) Ashley Prange (3)
Team leader for RBI:
Ally Shipman (26)
Prediction: Alabama Goes 2-1
With the amount of pressure put on the Alabama pitching staff, it looks possible, but difficult to win all three games. Starting the year 22-1 certainly wouldn't be the end of the world and saving Fouts, Torrence and Salter for the rest of a tough SEC schedule may be more beneficial than running all three athletes in the red for a weekend.
If Alabama's offense is on early, the Tide could very well sweep the Tigers in Baton Rouge.
Where To Watch/Listen:
Saturday (Game 1 @ 1 p.m.) - TV: SEC Network, Radio: 97.5 FM
Saturday (Game 2 @ 4 p.m.) - TV: SEC Network+, Radio: 97.5 FM
Sunday (Game 3 @ 2 p.m.) - TV: SEC Network+, Radio : 97.5 FM
For more from J.R. and all of the talented staff at Tide 100.9, make sure to check out our content at tide1009.com and on the Tide 100.9 app.