2018 Softball Preview: Alabama A&M
2017 Result: 17-31 (8-7 SWAC), Lost in SWAC Softball Tournament Quarterfinals
Key Returners: SS Tiana Sanders, 3B Ariel Smith, IF Tamia-Lee Barbadillo, UTIL Imani Largin, C/1B Madi Pozzi
Key Losses: P Caitlyn Hayden, 1B Viridiana Ramos, OF Eriel Lawson
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – After a five-win improvement in 2017, the Alabama A&M Lady Bulldogs come into the 2018 season looking for another step forward in hopes of breaking through as a contender for the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s softball crown.
Nakeya Hall enters her sixth year as coach with plenty to work with. Alabama A&M stands to return the vast majority of its hitting order, highlighted by Tiana Sanders. The shortstop hit .282 with a team-best 28 runs scored and 41 hits – 13 being of the extra-base variety – while driving in 19 runs. However, these totals, while solid, represented a marked drop-off from Sanders’ standout sophomore season where she hit .352 with 14 home runs and 37 RBI.
She looks to return to form as one of the league’s premier sluggers in her senior season. Helping to flesh out matters at the plate will be Ariel Smith, who led the team with 27 RBI, and top returning hitter Madi Pozzi (.303 BA, 23 H, 12 R, 11 RBI).
Danielle Hansell (.261 BA, 31 H, 21 BB, 17 R, 16 RBI, 6 2B) and Tamia-Lee Barbadillo (.265 BA, 31 H, 18 R, 12 RBI) each flashed in their freshman campaigns last season and – provided they avoid a sophomore slump – could make the Lady Bulldogs’ batting order one of the deepest in the league.
Pitching-wise, the Lady Bulldogs have to find a No. 1 arm to rely on following the graduation of Caitlyn Hayden. Utility player Imani Largin was effective in limited duty (2-3, 3.92 ERA, 30.1 IP, 14 K) and may be the favorite to anchor the rotation for Hall’s bunch. Largin was also one of the best hitters for the Maroon and White last season, as evidenced by her .333 batting average, 31 hits and 21 runs scored, so she could make a difference for Alabama A&M on more than one level.
Additionally, the Lady Bulldogs expect improvement from Rachel Sanders, who is the team’s most experienced returning arm from a usage standpoint.
Alabama A&M opens the season Feb. 10 at the Pine Bluff Classic, hosted by fellow SWAC school Arkansas-Pine Bluff.