2018 Softball Preview: Alabama State
2017 Result: 22-35 (10-8 SWAC), Lost in SWAC Softball Championship, NISC Berth
Key Returners: DP Charlene Castro, P Vanessa Bradford, P Justine Jean, OF Kaylee Davis
Key Losses: 3B Kendall Core, 2B Laura Aguilar, OF Valerie Centeno, 1B Perry Hindi, SS Alexia Boggess
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After falling just short in a valiant defense of its SWAC softball championship, perennial league power Alabama State brings a new-look unit into 2018 in search of its third-straight trip to the tournament finals.
Coach Chris Steiner-Wilcoxson has the unenviable task of retooling a roster that loses the vast majority of its offensive production and experience, as Alabama State graduated its entire starting infield and most of the key contributing outfielders. Given the Lady Hornets typically field one of, if not the most potent offensive lineups in the conference, the emergence and subsequent staying power of reliable bats would go a long way for the team’s aspirations this year.
The Lady Hornets will have two stout hitters to build around in outfielder Kaylee Davis and designated player Charlene Castro. Davis hit .331 with 39 hits, 26 runs scored and 13 stolen bases. The redshirt junior outfielder looks like a strong candidate as a leadoff hitter for the lineup.
Castro will be counted on as perhaps the top run-producer in the order. After establishing herself as one of the most feared bats in the SWAC as a freshman, Castro experienced a bit of a sophomore slump but still put up a .309 batting average to go with 41 hits, 28 RBI and four home runs. The junior eyes a return to form and remains one of the most explosive hitters in the league.
Catcher Taylor Rosser (.326 BA, 7 R, 7 RBI) also returns, and with reserves like Amira James (19 R, 4 HR) and Hailey Walker (.306 BA, 11 H, 7 RBI) primed for bigger roles as well as a signing class highlighted with big bats, the offense has potential to remain formidable.
Last season, pitching was the major question for Alabama State, and the duo of Vanessa Bradford (12-14, 4.24 ERA, 165.0 IP, 68 K) and Justine Jean (8-14, 5.83 ERA, 138.0 IP, 45 K) managed to soldier through uneven freshman seasons – capped by strong showings during postseason play – and solidify the rotation somewhat.
With a year under their belts, Bradford and Jean should put the Lady Hornets in good shape inside the circle.
Alabama State opens the season versus SIUE on Feb. 9 in Troy, Ala. as part of the Troy Trojans’ season-opening tournament.