No. 2 Bama softball heads to Florida for the USF tournament

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The No. 2/5 ranked Alabama softball team will travel to Tampa, Fla., this weekend to take part in the USF Fairfield Inn and Suites Tournament.  The Crimson Tide will compete against Central Connecticut, NCAA Regional-member Illinois State, Women's College World Series qualifier, No. 15 Missouri, USF, and Western Michigan.  The first game of the tournament for the Tide will be on Friday, Feb. 25 and will put Alabama against Illinois State at 11:30 a.m. CST.

LAST TIME OUT                                               

The Alabama softball team scored three runs in the seventh inning and used a one-hit gem from senior Kelsi Dunne to down UAB, 3-0, Tuesday night.  On her birthday, freshman Ryan Iamurri was the one giving the gift as she slapped in what proved to be the winning run, when she plated junior Jazlyn Lunceford on a grounder to short in the top of the seventh inning.   Sophomore Courtney Conley then swiped home after she eluded a pickoff attempt and then Iamurri was able to complete the scoring, crossing the plate after a wild pitch.  Dunne proved to be too much for the Blazers as she has grown a liking to the UAB circle. After a 17 strikeout performance last season in Birmingham, she followed it up with a 14 punchout, complete game effort Tuesday night.


The Tide opened the home portion of its 2011 schedule this past weekend at BAMA Bash by scoring 61 runs over the course of five games, earning four of the five wins via the run-rule.  Alabama erupted for 14 home runs, with nine different players going yard over the weekend.  Jackie Traina finished the tournament as the BAMA Bash MPV, leading the team with a .667 (8-for-12) average, three home runs and 10 RBI.  Cassie Reilly-Boccia and Kelsi Dunne also earned all-tournament honors.  Reilly-Boccia is hitting a .500 (14-for-28) on the year, with three home runs and 12 RBI. Dunne is a perfect 6-0 thus far with a 0.42 ERA, and has thrown five complete games. On the season, the Crimson Tide has now outscored its opponents 111-21, and has crushed 24 home runs. Alabama has scored 10 or more runs on four different occasions and eight or more, eight times this season.


The Illinois State softball team split a pair of games on the opening day of the Littlewood Classic in Tempe, Ariz., on Friday. The Redbirds topped Idaho State, 10-1, in five innings before dropping a 13-4 decision to No. 8 Arizona State in the nightcap.  On Saturday, the softball team used a 12-run third inning on its way to a 16-0 victory over Seattle University.  The Redbirds' second contest on Saturday with Iowa was halted after rain showers forced a cancellation after just two full innings.  Junior pitcher Jordan Birch tossed a one-hit shutout to lead the softball team over Idaho State on the final day of the tournament.  The Redbirds (7-2) completed the trip with a 3-1 record. On the season, ISU is hitting .345 and pitching at a 2.07 clip. The Redbirds are holding their opponents to a 2.02 batting average and have pounded opposing pitchers for a 7.00 ERA.


The Central Connecticut softball team was picked to finish sixth in the preseason Northeast Conference Coaches Poll.  The Blue Devils, 19-31 a season ago and 7-11 in NEC play, are under the direction of second year head coach Jeff Franquet.  Central begins its season this weekend in Tampa.


Western Michigan played No. 8 Arizona State at home to open the season as the Sun Devils defeated the Broncos, 17-0 in five innings at the beginning of Kajikawa Classic on Thursday, Feb. 17.  WMU fell to Utah and Oregon State, 6-0 and 8-0, in six innings, respectively, on Friday of the tournament.  Western Michigan held a one-run lead in the sixth inning against Northwestern but the Broncos fell, 5-4, to the Wildcats on Saturday night.  Earlier that day, WMU busted out for six runs in an 8-6 loss to Cal-State Northridge.  Western Michigan finished the tournament with a 5-0 loss to No. 6 Oklahoma on Sunday.  The Sooners were the second team ranked in the top 15 that took the field against the Broncos during the opening weekend of the season.  WMU are 0-6 on the year and sport a .143 batting average and a 6.87 ERA. Opposing teams are hitting at a .327 clip and post a 1.62 ERA.


The No. 15-ranked Missouri softball team opened up the 2011 season with a 9-1 win over San Diego State, run-ruling the Aztecs in five innings in their season opener on Thursday at the San Diego Classic I Tournament.  On Friday, the Tigers dropped a 6-3 contest to Fresno State, as all nine runs were scored in the first two innings with the Bulldogs slugging three home runs.  Later that day, their game with Cal was postponed with the score tied at 0-0 in the top of the sixth.  Due to inclement weather, all of Saturday's games were canceled.  After a 40-hour postponement, the Tigers and Bears were finally able to conclude their contest on Sunday morning, with the Golden Bears coming out victorious by a 1-0 score.  The Tigers finished the tournament 1-2, which is also their record this season.


The University of South Florida dropped a heartbreaker in the first of two games on Friday night with a 1-0 loss to Fordham as USF hosted their second tournament of the season.  USF could not get the bats going in their second game as the Bulls fell, 6-2, to UAB later that evening.  The Bulls dropped their fourth straight game in one of their doubleheaders on Saturday with a 5-1 loss to Indiana.  USF finally busted out of their offensive slump by exploding for eight runs in a win over Mississippi later that night.

The softball team dropped the finale of the tournament on Sunday to Big East foe DePaul, 4-2.  The Bulls have lost five of their last six, and are 5-5 to open the season. They are hitting at a .244 clip and post a 2.37 ERA. Opponents are hitting .287 and sport a 3.76 ERA.


Illinois State:  The Tide will look to remain undefeated against the Redbirds.  Alabama holds a 3-0 series advantage over Illinois State.  The last time these two schools played each other was in 2003, on Feb. 21, when Alabama shut-out Illinois State, 5-0.

Central Connecticut:  This will be the first time the two programs have met each other in softball play.

Western Michigan:  This will also be the first time the two programs have met each other in softball action.

Missouri:  Alabama will face Missouri for the first time since the Tide's series season opener last year.  The Tigers took game one with a 2-1 victory in which they only allowed Alabama two hits. The Tide turned quite dramatically in game two with Alabama scoring six in the first inning, before winning 9-0 in five innings.  The Tigers claimed the rubber match by an identical 9-0 score. Alabama and Missouri have four wins against one another in the all-time series.

USF:  South Florida has had Alabama's number in the past.  The Bulls hold a 2-0 series lead over the Tide with their last meeting occurring on May 19, 2001, in the 2001 NCAA Regionals held in Tuscaloosa.  USF defeated Alabama 3-2 to hand the Tide an early NCAA Tournament exit.


Jackie Traina (Naples, Fla.) was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week as announced on Monday. Traina nabbed the honor on the heels of being named the Bama Bash MVP, helping lead the Tide to a perfect 5-0 record over the weekend and another Bama Bash tournament title. Traina led Alabama in seven offensive categories, including average (.667), hits (8), HR (3), RBI (10), slugging percentage (1.417) and on base percentage (.765). Traina recorded three multi-hit games and four multi-RBI games. The rookie also posted a win in the circle, including a one-hitter against Syracuse on Sunday. On the season, Traina is hitting a team-best .538 and leads the team with four home runs and 15 RBI.


Alabama sophomore outfielder Kayla Braud has set the table atop the Crimson Tide lineup since the moment she stepped on campus. The Eugene, Ore., native is once again playing at her All-American level as she enters the weekend on a 20-game hitting streak. Braud has tallied at least one hit in all 11 games thus far in 2011 and ended the 2010 campaign on a nine game hitting streak. The 20-game streak is the third longest in school history as she surpasses the 19-game streak set by Brittany Rogers in 2008. Jordan Praytor's 25-game hitting streak (2006) and Kelly Kretschman's 35-game (1998) streak lie ahead for Braud.


With the hot start at the plate to start the 2011 campaign, the Crimson Tide leads the Southeastern Conference in eight statistical categories.  Offensively, the Tide leads the circuit in: slugging percentage (.723), runs scored (111), hits (125), RBI (103), home runs (24), total bases (217) and stolen bases (47).  Alabama ranks second in batting average (.417) and on-base percentage (.514). (As of Feb. 21)


Numerous Alabama individuals currently pace the league in several categories. Jackie Traina and Cassie Reilly-Boccia are in the top ten in batting average with a .538 mark and a .500 mark, respectively. Kayla Braud sits atop the conference in runs scored (17), hits (18) and stolen bases (19). In the circle, Kelsi Dunne leads the league in opposing batting average (.083) and strikeouts (58), and ranks second in ERA (0.46). (As of Feb. 21)


The Crimson Tide will compete in another tournament next weekend as they travel back to the Sunshine State to compete in the ESPN Rise Tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.  Alabama's first scheduled game will be against Fordham on Friday, March 4, at 10 a.m. CST.