Virginia Tech Softball Travels To Alabama For Top-15 Showdown

Cori McMillan and Virginia Tech have quite the challenge this weekend in Tuscaloosa. (Jon Fleming)

No. 12 Virginia Tech (24-4-1) travels to Tuscaloosa this weekend for a two-game showdown with perennial softball power No. 15 Alabama (24-5). D1Softball characterized the series as “must-see action.”

Although rain is in Friday’s forecast, that game is set for 7 p.m. ET while Saturday’s contest is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET. Both games are slated to be shown on SEC Network Plus.

“Our bye weekends aligned and Alabama will help solidify our RPI resume,” Virginia Tech head coach Pete D’Amour told Tech Sideline. “It’s a fun environment to play in and will have a similar feel to a postseason series, and it’s not a terrible drive.”

The Crimson Tide has a storied history in softball, most of it under the direction of coach Patrick Murphy. He’s been with Alabama softball since its inception in 1997. He started as an assistant coach before being named head coach on July 12, 1998. Since then, he has taken the Crimson Tide to 24 NCAA Tournaments, 17 NCAA Super Regionals and 14 Women’s College World Series appearances, including a national championship in 2012. He has an overall record of 1,259-359-4 (.777) in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama started this season with 18 straight wins before losing 2-0 to South Alabama on March 2. Its other four losses have come in SEC play during the last two weekends. It dropped two games to both No. 10 Florida and No. 5 Georgia, including a run-rule setback to each team.

For the first time since 2018, Alabama does not have All-American Montana Fouts to anchor the pitching staff. The three-time All-American, who won 100 games at Alabama, had a career ERA of 1.66 and struck out 1,181 batters. In spite of an injury last season, Fouts threw 50 percent of the innings while leading the Crimson Tide to the College World Series.

Murphy told D1Softball in the fall that his plan to replace Fouts was a six-pitcher rotation.

“You cannot scout six pitchers for a game,” he said. “You can’t do six scouting reports because everybody’s going to be confused. You’re going to forget who’s who and what they throw. So it’s going to be tough for anybody to prepare for us because they’re never going to know who’s going to start.”

Jocelyn Briski is one of a number of arms for the Crimson Tide. (Alabama athletics)

However, his plan has not come to fruition so far this season. Only four Tide pitchers have thrown more than five innings and they are all right-handers.

Central Arkansas transfer Kayla Beaver (9-2, 0.91 ERA) and senior Jaala Torrence (7-3, 1.42 ERA) have started 22 of the 29 games and 65 percent of the innings. LSU transfer Alea Johnson (3-0, 1.18 ERA) has appeared in 13 games, primarily as a reliever, and freshman Jocelyn Briski (5-0) has thrown 28 ⅔ innings with 35 strikeouts.

However, as a team, Alabama’s ERA is a full run per game less than Virginia Tech’s — 1.43 to 2.46, respectively. It’s pitchers have given up only 10 home runs, too, almost half of their Tech counterparts (18).

Virginia Tech appears to have the advantage on the offensive side. The Tide averages five runs per game while Tech averages 8.6. The Hokies have a team batting average of .361 to the Tide’s .290, too, and are second in the country in home runs with 65. Alabama’s hit just 26.

Here’s a look at the leading hitters for each team:

While the defensive stats are similar (fielding pct of .976 for Tech vs. 971 for Alabama), the Tide has only allowed six stolen bases this season in 12 attempts. The Hokies have stolen 40 bases in 45 attempts, led by Emma Ritter (18 thefts in 20 attempts) and Cori McMillan (12-for-12).

The Hokies are 0-5 against Alabama all-time. The last two meetings occurred in 2022 when Alabama won two games in Tuscaloosa (1-0 and 2-0). Emma Lemley took the loss in the second game after surrendering a two-run home run to Ally Shipman in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Hokies were shut out in spite of registering nine hits, including loading the bases in the top of the first with no outs.

Here is the tale of the tape:

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