Alabama's Unlikely Pitching Trio: Osorio, Littlejohn, & Moore
Sydney Littlejohn wears a necklace with a pendant of her jersey number, 28, and a script University of Alabama "A" and a cross anchor.
The 6-foot-1 blonde-haired pitcher from Rusk, Texas, also has rings on her left hand and a bracelet.
Her left ear has two lower and two upper piercings, with just two lower ones in the other ear.
The 22-year-old prefers silver. All of her jewelry is by Texas-based designer James Avery.
"I like things that are shiny," she says.
Alexis Osorio, the Crimson Tide's dark-haired junior from Riverside, California, has two small diamond earrings. Her understated necklace, which is almost always tucked inside her jersey, has a pendant of her native state and her No. 27.
"I don't wear any rings," she says. "I used to wear bracelets, like the rubber ones."
Sophomore Madi Moore, a left-hander from Winfield, Alabama, wears diamonds in her ears except when she's playing -- she has red square earrings for game days. She also has string bracelets that she changes in and out depending on her mood, which always go on her right wrist. She doesn't wear a necklace when she plays, but she does wear her Apple Watch when she's away from the field.
That's kind of the way it is in most things with the Alabama pitching staff -- Littlejohn and Osorio at the extremes, with Moore somewhere in between.
Three Sisters & Their PetsAlabama's pitching trio has had nearly two seasons to work out and grow into its group dynamic. The roster of arms hasn't changed since the start of the 2016 season. No pitcher graduated after last season; none was signed for this year.
"Two years with the same three pitchers -- no one added, no one lost -- that's a pretty cool deal," Moore says. "It's weird how close we are.
"We're competing every day, but there's no jealousy. Genuinely, I want Sydney and Lex to do so great and they want that for me, and I know that."
Osorio and Littlejohn have had All-American success. Moore, for a period of time late in the season last year as a freshman, may have been the most effective of the bunch. All three have had at least a piece of at least one no-hitter this season.
If there's a bond beyond softball, it starts with animals. All three players are pet lovers.
"I love cats," Littlejohn says. "I want every animal in the world: I plan on getting a German shepherd; I plan on getting a werewolf Persian cat; I plan on getting a mastiff. I want bunnies. I want an ocelot.
"I want all of these things. But they have to wait until I have more time."
Osorio recently got a mini goldendoodle named Benny, which is a major reason that she's most likely to have a messy room. He's just under 11 pounds and will probably grow to about 25, ''about as high as your shins," Osorio says.
Moore has two dogs, both of whom live with her family a little more than an hour north of the UA campus: a female Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Poppy and a male goldendoodle named Oliver.
But that's not all.
"I have a pet turtle. Her name is Myrtle, I swear," Moore says with a laugh. "I don't condone this, but you know how you can buy hermit crabs at the beach? I bought a little turtle. It's been close to 10 years, and that thing has not died. She's still kicking."
Maybe it's Moore's tender loving care.
"We feed her turtle food, and if a fly is flying around the house, I'll -- POP -- and feed it to her," the pitcher says.
She has also had other pets.
One morning when she was 11 or 12 years old, Moore and her sister saw something running back and forth across the backyard. At first they thought it was a dog.
"It was a pig," Moore says. "So Lilly was like, 'What do we do with it?' I was like, 'We bring it inside and lock it in our bathroom and don't tell anyone until we get home from school.'
"So that's what we did."
One problem: Mom got home first.
"Yeah, we got in some trouble for it," Moore says. "But we got to keep it for a couple of days."
What Will They Do NextMoore is majoring in biology. Right now, she's leaning toward pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.
"She's going to go for it, and she'll probably be the best one out there," Littlejohn says. "I will take my animals to her."
Moore is the group's bookworm.
"I'm a closet nerd," she says. "I guess not a closet nerd: people close to me know I like to read. I like to go to school and going to class. I kind of like learning.
"I'll wake up at night and the lights are on, book's in the lap, and I've dozed off."
Littlejohn already has a degree in human performance/exercise science, graduating this past August after three years and a summer. She's in UA's sports management master's program. She thinks she wants to be a director of operations for a collegiate softball program, but her career plans aren't firm.
"I'm really open to whatever comes my way," she says. "I'm not going to set limits on what I do. I do want to eventually be a mom and have a family and all that, and I know there are certain limitations that come with that."
Osorio's major is early childhood education. "I don't know if I want to be a teacher," she says. "I just know I want to work with kids"
So they have their similarities and differences. But they also all want the ball.
Personality AssessmentSo who is the alpha? That's easy.
"Steph is our queen," Moore says, referring to UA pitching coach Stephanie VanBrakle Prothro, herself a former Alabama ace pitcher.
"Steph is the alpha," Littlejohn says. "She's our mom."
The Tide's pitching coach is intense. Her presence is intimidating. Maybe that's why Osorio is so quiet.
"Oh my gosh, my freshman year I did not say a word in the bullpen," she confesses. "I just went in there, did my work, and went straight to running. I didn't ask very many questions. I was so scared of her."
VanBrakle Prothro chuckles at that revelation. It's another insight into the personalities she must manage. It's her job to make each pitcher better and to make them work as a unit, so that their individual quests for success don't interfere with the goal of winning as a team.
"Syd is the most colorful personality we have, sassy personality," the coach says. "Lex is silent, yet super competitive; serious, but she can have fun. Madi is a little more well rounded, a little bit of sass and a little bit of fun, outgoing, and super sweet kid.
"They kind of balance each other out pretty well."
Osorio is known for her poker face when pitching, but her fellow pitchers know her more for her laugh. The girl who never smiles on the field can't stop when she's with her teammates.
"I literally laugh at everything, the dumbest things," she says. "Like if someone tells a joke and I've already heard it and it's not funny, I'll laugh. If someone makes a funny face, I'll laugh."
Littlejohn is patient and keeps a positive attitude -- except when she drives.
"I do have road rage," she says. "The reason I think I have road rage is the place I grew up only has one red light, and it wasn't even there my whole life -- it's fairly new. I came to Tuscaloosa. I'm not used to traffic; I'm not used to red lights, so I see all these things and I just get angry. A place it should take me five minutes to get, it takes 20 because of all the red lights."
Moore is from a rural, woodland town but doesn't consider herself to be a country girl.
"I despise country music," she says. "All forms of it: I cannot listen to country. And I am not a fan of sweet tea. I'll drink it if it's the only thing, but if I have a choice I won't.
"Beside those two things, yeah, but those are two really country things. But I love being outdoors: camping, hiking, paddle-boarding, kayaking. I love all that stuff."
With such different personalities among her pitchers, VanBrakle Prothro doesn't coach them the same. She has to filter to meet the needs of each. When visiting Osorio in the circle, VanBrakle Prothro keeps things calm.
With Littlejohn, the coach says little and just tries to break up the momentum. VanBrakle Prothro does most of her talking with Moore in the dugout rather than on the field.
She also treats game preparation differently for each player.
"(Littlejohn) wants every little detail that there is to know about the other team," VanBrakle Prothro says. "Then she want to know what our plan is. And then what if this happens. Some days we have to put her on on a question limit.
"Lex wants the least. She works better that way. She likes to watch it, but she doesn't want to be overwhelmed. She wants to think about what she can do, what she controls.
"Madi is a little more like Lex, wants to know but doesn't want to know too much. She'll say, 'Let me watch some film,' and we'll discuss what we see during the game."
The pitchers also share a sweet tooth. VanBrakle Prothro always brings candy to games.
Littlejohn likes dark chocolate and cookies 'n cream flavors. For Moore, Sour Patch watermelon is favored. Osorio likes Dove chocolate and the coach's own favorite, gummy bears.
Each also has her own dugout routine when not pitching: Littlejohn is a towel-waiver, Moore likes to beat on an empty ball bucket like a drum, and Osorio claps and cheers while always keeping an eye on the field to take in the action.
VanBrakle Prothro doesn't want them to be the same, but she wants them to have something in common. A pitcher, she believes, has to be something of a diva.
"It's not so much I'm a diva because I'm better than you," Littlejohn says. "That's not what we mean. I want to be a diva, because I want to carry myself in a confident manner."
Osorio says, "I think every pitcher wants the hitters to be intimidated by them. My goal is to show them that whether we're winning or losing, it doesn't matter as long as my focus is on what I need to get done."
Moore isn't sold on the diva thing.
"I don't consider myself a diva," she says. "I don't. I just don't think I fall into that category."
VanBrakle Prothro explains what she means: "Divas have high standards. I like to say we're particular in how we like things, like the mound and the way we warm up and what you eat the day you pitch or what you don't eat, whether you throw the day before or you don't -- I think you have to have a little bit of that.
"I like diva better than like a princess. You have to want the ball."
Moore is willing to look at it that way.
"Somebody thinks I'm a princess, that pisses me off," she says. "Yes, we do have to have things a certain way, but I think we can find a better term. We can find a better word than diva. That will be a goal, to do that."
Before the season, VanBrakle Prothro asked each pitcher to come up with a single word that each wanted to describe herself as a pitcher. Littlejohn chose "fierce." Osorio picked "relaxed." Moore went with "determined."
As a group, only one word would work: friends.
"Both of them will be in my wedding, hopefully in a lot of years," Moore said. "And hopefully I'll be in theirs."