Tide set to play 10th straight out-of-state game
The University of Alabama softball team will travel to Fort Myers, Fla., to play in the Florida Gulf Coast University/LaQuinta Inn and Suites Tournament Friday.
The three-day tournament will see Alabama take on Appalachian State and tournament host Florida Gulf Coast on Friday, Wichita State and Georgia Southern on Saturday, and Southern Illinois on Sunday.
After Alabama’s home game vs. South Alabama was cancelled Feb. 12, the tournament will mark 10 consecutive out-of-state games for the Tide to start the season. Head Coach Patrick Murphy said despite all the traveling his team has done, it has been beneficial for team bonding.
“You get to fly to Iowa and fly to Florida, you get to experience all kinds of cool things,” Murphy said. “And hopefully you get to go through some adversity too. You get to play the home team both weekends on Friday night. Five thousand people in Iowa, and it’s already sold out in Fort Myers.”
Indeed, Murphy said playing in road games with home field advantage atmospheres will be good for his team in the early stages while preparing for the upcoming Southeastern Conference schedule. Murphy said his team’s No. 1 ranking has a lot to do with the sold-out crowds.
“We talked before we even started playing, that you have a big target on your back now,” Murphy said. “It’s bigger this year with the national championship last year.”
Despite the Tide’s target on its back, senior outfielder Keima Davis said she was excited about the upcoming tournament. Davis said she felt her team’s performance in the UNI Dome Tournament would carry over into the weekend.
“I feel like our whole team will be able to carry it over,” Davis said. “We know that every team’s out to get us. No matter what, we’re always going to have to play our best.”
Competition isn’t the only reason the softball team is excited to head to Florida, either. The Tide has four players from the state of Florida: Davis, senior Lauren Sewell, junior Ryan Iamurri and junior Jackie Traina.
Murphy said the tournament would be a homecoming of sorts for these players and an exciting opportunity for their friends and families to see them play close to home.
“It’s just going to be a lot of fun for them,” Murphy said. “I know tons of friends and family. Obviously, the game’s sold out that Friday night. They’ve never been sold out ever at Florida Gulf Coast.”
Even with the excitement surrounding the tournament, Murphy and the players said they know they have business to handle. Apart from winning games, sophomore infielder Danielle Richard said her team could use the tournament to make early improvements.
“We have something we can work on,” Richard said. “But that’s every team, and I’m just really excited.”
Murphy agreed with Richard’s assessment, saying his team could improve on numerous areas, both offensively and defensively. Offensively, Murphy said his team could do a better job of extending innings and not stranding base runners. Defensively, he said his players needed to be able to close out innings, while eliminating “silly” mistakes.
Murphy also said teams like Georgia Southern, Florida Gulf Coast and Southern Illinois could be dangerous teams.
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