As it does for most national championship teams, senior leadership in the right holes played a large factor for the Crimson Tide in its 2012 national championship campaign.
Senior Kendall Dawson was behind the plate calling the signals for the two seniors starting in the outfield, Jen Fenton and Jazlyn Lunceford, the first baseman, Cassie Reilly-Boccia, and designated player Amanda Locke.
The luxury from last season has now turned into a void that the Tide has to fill — but, not impossible. The replacement leaders look forward to building on those before them.
“Leading is so easy when you’ve had great people in front of you,” senior outfielder Kayla Braud said. “I’ve gotten the perfect example of it in the classes in front of me. It started with Whitney Larson, Cassie Reilly-Boccia, Jazlyn Lunceford, all of those people set the stage for me and set a good template for me to go off of it.”
Leadership could help poise the Tide for another championship run, but not if the playmakers that doubled as leaders are not adequately replaced. Alabama coach Patrick Murphy has numerous options at each spot.
“Catchers, we have three: Jordan Patterson, junior; Molly Fichtner, our transfer from Texas-San Antonio; and Chaunsey Bell, her arm’s pretty much 100 percent now,” Murphy said. “All three do something different offensively. They’re all righty-rightys, but you can literally flip a coin there.
“First base, you have Jackey Branham, Jadyn Spencer and Leona Lafaele, who’s a freshman. Same thing with those three: they’ve done very well defensively and I don’t think anyone has made an error in a scrimmage.”
The season starts Friday in Cedar Falls, Iowa, in the UNI Dome tournament. Alabama will play Illinois at 3 p.m. and Northern Iowa at 7 p.m. that day. Murphy is not afraid to let certain position battles spill into the season. Actually, he hopes they do.
“I’m not a coach that says, ‘Ok, these are the nine, you’re the subs, you’re going to pinch run, pinch hit, maybe come in to play defense,’ ” Murphy said. “I’ve never done that. I don’t think that’s a good way to build team chemistry. Every one is going to get opportunities, they just have to capitalize.”
In fact, Murphy hopes to use the great deal of talent on his roster to his advantage.
“Just the competition is going to make the 18th hitter that much better, and it will go up the ladder and they’re all going to be better,” he said.
Contributed by Brett Hudson
Video of Murphy and players talking about leadership: