My analysis of this team after 3 weeks of the season:
Pitching: Again this year this will be out strength. Although Traina has not looked like she is in mid-season form at times, she is still probably the Best all round pitcher in College softball. Jury appears to have matured nicely and has gained control of her pitches. Sewell's return will give us the depth we need for tournament play.
Outfield: Having lost 2 outstanding outfielders off the National Championship Team one might expect some drop off in outfield play. The recruitment of McCleney and the development of Davis will minimize any potential drop off in defense and/or hitting at this position for this team. Hawkins also looks ready to play and could backup in any of the outfields. This position will definitely be a strength for this team.
Middle Infielders: The position switch of Hunt and Hays will strengthen the defensive ability up the middle. Hays has a much quicker release on her throw and can make the sidearm throw quicker than Hunt. Her range also better fits the shortstop position. Hunt is an adequate fielder who will be a team leader in hitting for average as well as with power. With this combination we will be solid up the middle.
ON the Corners: Although Coach Murphy has tried numerous combinations at 1st and 3rd, nobody has risen above the pack to claim a clear advantage over the others. Conley is a really good defensive 3rd baseman who is capable of hitting with power, maybe she will find her grove soon. Richards has proven a capable
sub at 3rd, but I don't see her replacing a 3 year starter unless Conley completely tanks. First base is a different story, we lost an outstanding defensive and offensive player in Ri-Bo, and as far as I can tell, there is still no clear leader in the competition for that position. Spenser has the potential but has not shown much yet. Lafaele may also develope, but may not be ready yet to face SEC type pitching. This position appears to be one of 2 weakness this team has at this point.
Catcher: Kendell Dawson was an outstanding defensive catcher who we are going to miss. She didn't have a big bat but had an outstanding arm. As with 1st base, no one has risen to the top as a clear leader for this position. Fichtner certainly has potential but has not found her groove yet. I saw Bell catch a couple of innings in last years SEC tournament and was impressed with
with the way she handled the position, but again she has not risen to the top in that competition.
Summary: Pitching - Outstanding
Outfield - Great
Middle Infield - Good
Corners - satisfactory
Catcher - Unknown
We have one more week of pre conference play, before we take on Florida and Tennessee. We need to find who the "winners" are at 1st and at catching. Our offense production from the outfield and middle infield had been good (maybe bordering on great), but the offensive production from 1st base, 3rd base, and catcher has been inadequate for a championship team.
I have confidence that Coach Murphy is every bit as smart as I am, and already has a plan of how to address these issues