No. 1 Bama softball returns to Florida for the Citrus Classic

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The No. 1/3 ranked Alabama softball team will return to the Sunshine State this weekend to take part in the Citrus Classic in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The tournament will be held at ESPN's Wide World of Sports at the Walt Disney World Resort.  The Crimson Tide will compete against Notre Dame, Fordham, No. 17 Louisiana-Lafayette, Fordham, No. 13 Oregon, and Virginia.  All five of those teams were in the NCAA Softball Tournament last season.  The first game of the tournament on Friday will put Alabama against Notre Dame at 11:30 a.m. CST.


Alabama claimed its third tournament title of the season as it earned the USF Fairfield Inn and Suites Tournament championship.  The softball team opened the tournament with a 7-0 victory over Illinois State on Friday afternoon at the brand new USF Softball Stadium.  Freshman Jackie Traina proved to be the difference as she pitched six scoreless innings and drove in four runs, including a three-run home run.  The Tide won its second game of the day Friday night by running past Central Connecticut, 17-1.  On Saturday, the Alabama swept its doubleheader against Western Michigan, 12-4, and No. 18 Missouri, 3-1.  Freshman Jackie Traina made history as she became the first Crimson Tide player to hit three home runs in a single game as she helped Alabama cruise over Western Michigan.  In playing its first ranked opponent of the season, senior Kelsi Dunne improved to 7-0 on the season as she went the distance, allowing one run on three hits while striking out seven against Missouri.  The Crimson Tide claimed the tournament title with a 12-1 win over host USF, Sunday afternoon. Traina earned the win in the circle to improve to 5-0 on the season. The rookie allowed one run on two hits and struck out five in five innings of work.  The newcomer also hit a RBI double.


Alabama out-scored its opponents 51-7 on the weekend and slammed 14 home runs. The team hit at a .368 clip and pitched at a 1.17 ERA.  Kayla Braud is batting .510 (26-for-51) with 24 runs and 26 stolen bases.  Cassie Reilly-Boccia is not too far behind, hitting .500 (20-for-40) with four home runs and 17 RBI.  Coming off her historic game on Saturday, Jackie Traina is now hitting .488 (20-for-41) on the year with a team-best eight home runs and 25 RBI. She also leads the team with a 1.098 slugging percentage, 45 total bases and her .571 on base percentage ranks second on the squad.  Kelsi Dunne is a perfect 7-0 thus far with a 0.51 ERA, and has thrown six complete games. On the season, the Crimson Tide has now outscored its opponents 162-28, and has crushed 38 home runs. Alabama has scored 10 or more runs on seven different occasions this season.


Notre Dame went a perfect 4-0 on the weekend at the College of Charleston's Cougar Classic in Mount Pleasant, S.C, at Patriots Point.  On Saturday, Jody Valdivia punched out 11 batters during a 2-0 win over the host College of Charleston, and Laura Winter added eight strikeouts as Notre Dame downed Iowa State, 1-0. The following day, the Fighting Irish continued to ride their hot streak.  Notre Dame began the day with a five-inning, 10-1, victory over Marist. The team then went to work for a 6-4 win over Liberty for the program's 900th win in 23 seasons.  The Fighting Irish's pitching staff posted a 0.54 ERA in 26.0 innings. Jody Valdivia, Laura Winter, Jackie Bowe and Brittany O'Donnell each recorded a win with Valdivia also posting a save.   The Irish hit .316 as a team in the four-game invite while out-scoring the opposition, 19-5. Alexa Maldonado hit .545 with six hits and six runs to pace the offensive unit.  Notre Dame has bettered their school-record streak by opening up the season, 9-0.  Helping Notre Dame to their historic start is catcher Amy Buntin who is hitting .579 (11-for-19) with six runs batted in and six runs.  The Irish are holding their opponents to a .150 batting average and pitching at a 1.19 ERA.


No. 17 Louisiana-Lafayette captured the Cowgirl Classic title in Lake Charles, La., over the weekend.  UL has an overall record of 14-1 this year.  The Ragin' Cajuns dropped their first contest of the season as they fell in game one of the tournament to Southern, 5-4.  UL was able to rebound and dropped Jackson State, 12-2, in game two of the day.  Christi Orgeron posted six RBI on the day for the Cajuns, including her second home run of the year.  The Cajuns pounded out 18 hits on the day while giving up just six.  On Saturday, Shelbee Rodgers threw her third complete game shutout in five career starts as the Cajuns defeated Grambling State, 7-0, in their first game of the day.  The Cajuns used five hits and another stellar pitching performance to defeat the host McNeese State in their second game of the day by a final score of 4-0.  Ashley Brignac (5-0) threw her fifth career no-hitter as she went the distance, striking out seven while allowing just three base runners.  UL used its third consecutive shutout - tenth of the season - to defeat Houston Baptist, 5-0, on Sunday, capturing the title.  Ashley Brignac (6-0) threw her second consecutive complete game shutout, striking out a season-high 16 batters while scattering six hits.  Ashley Brignac has earned her second weekly honor in as many days as she was named LSWA Pitcher of the Week on Tuesday.  Brignac is 6-0 (0.19 ERA) and thrown 55 strikeouts this season.  Offensively, UL is averaging a little over 11 runs per game.


The Fordham softball team showed they could play with the best teams in the nation over the weekend, as they went 3-2 in the Cathedral City Classic in Cathedral City, Calif., with games against three ranked-opponents.  The Rams beat No.12 Texas, 2-1, in the opening game, and fell to No. 5 Washington, 2-0, in the second contest on Thursday.   On day two of the classic, Fordham defeated Cal. State Fullerton, 1-0.  Chelsea Plimpton was in the circle to start for the Rams, and she was masterful early.  Plimpton didn't allow an extra-base hit until the sixth, when she surrendered a lone double.   Rams finished play in the tournament on Saturday by splitting a pair of games with No. 21 LSU and Nevada. Fordham lost to LSU, 6-2, in the opener, and defeated Nevada by that identical score in the finale.  The Rams are 7-7 on the season.  Third baseman Jocelyn Dearborn is leading the team in batting average (.277), slugging percentage (.426), hits (13) and runs batted in (6).


The No. 13-ranked University of Oregon softball team fell to Pacific by a 4-2 score in its opener of the Libby Matson Tournament Saturday afternoon in Stockton, Calif.  Freshman infielder Kailee Cuico hit her second homer of the season in the game- a two-out, two-run shot to left field.  Oregon got back on the winning track later in the afternoon with an 8-0, five-inning win over San Jose State.  Sophomore pitcher Jessica Moore struck out seven, walked one and allowed only one hit.  On Sunday, the Ducks shut out San Jose State for the second straight day behind the pitching of Moore.  Moore pitched the first six innings, struck out seven, walked four and allowed three hits. Junior Samantha Skillingstad worked the final inning, struck out two and allowed no hits.  Oregon tapped a sixth-inning solo home run by Kelsey Chambers to win its second game later in the afternoon.  In the circle, Skillingstad held the Broncos at bay in her second shutout of the season.  Skillingstad struck out 11 - one off her career high - walked four, and allowed only three hits.  Oregon wrapped up the tournament Monday with a convincing 9-1 win over host Pacific.  Moore (6-1) won her third contest of the trip and kept her 0.00 weekend ERA spotless to go along with five strikeouts, four walks, and two hits allowed in the five-inning start.  The Ducks are 14-2 to open up the season.   After helping the Ducks to a 4-1 mark in the tournament, Moore was tabbed the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week.  On the season, she leads the team in ERA (0.91), strikeouts (62), innings (46.1), starts (8) and complete games (3).  Infielders Christie Nieto is hitting a .478 (13-for-29) this season with 12 runs batted in and 10 runs.


The Virginia softball team opened the Cathedral City Classic with wins over Brigham Young, 9-3, and Utah, 4-2, Thursday in Cathedral City, Calif.  In the opener against BYU, the Cavaliers used an eight-run fifth inning to grab the victory. The Cavaliers followed the BYU game with a 4-2 win over Utah, after putting up all four runs in the fourth inning. The Cavaliers, however, were limited to two hits in the game while Utah tallied eight hits.  The next day, Virginia fell to Fresno State, 4-1, in its third game of the tournament. Virginia took an early 1-0 lead in the fourth inning but the Bulldogs put up two runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth for the win.  On Saturday, Virginia put up three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning in a come-from-behind 6-4 upset of No. 14 Hawai'i. Sophomore pitcher Melanie Mitchell had nine strikeouts in the winning effort.  It was the first win over a ranked opponent for Virginia this season.  Virginia concluded the classic with a 9-3 loss to top-ranked Arizona.  The Wildcats out-hit the Cavaliers 13-6 for the contest, including three home runs.  Virginia finished the classic, 3-2, and is 9-5 on the season.  Kristen Hawkins is having a great year for the Cavaliers, leading the team in slugging percentage (.516), on base percentage (.462) and runs batted in (12).  Hawkins is the only player to hit a home run for Virginia all season.  Despite their 9-5 record, the Cavaliers are being out-hit by their opponents and allowing more earned runs on average.


Notre Dame:  The Tide is a perfect 4-0 against the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.  The last time these two teams matched up was back on Feb. 14, 2009, when Alabama blanked Notre Dame in five innings, 10-0.  After the Tide opened the game with a run in the second, they opened it wide open with four in the third and five more in the fifth. In the Bama Bash that season the Tide beat the Irish by a combined 20-1 score. Jennifer Fenton batted .600 in those two games while Amanda Locke belted two home runs and batted .600 as well.

Louisiana-Lafayette:  Alabama will face Louisiana-Lafayette for the first time since these two teams met in the 2008 College World Series in Oklahoma City, Okla.  The Crimson Tide rode a strong pitching performance by Charlotte Morgan in that last game while making the most of their offensive opportunities in a 3-1 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette.  Alabama holds a 3-2 advantage in the series.

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

Oregon:  The last time these two schools played each other was on Feb. 19, 2009, when the Alabama softball team defeated Oregon, 5-0, to put a close to opening day of the Cathedral City Classic. Alabama junior pitcher Charlotte Morgan put together a stellar performance in the circle, holding the Ducks to two hits en route to a complete game shutout.

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


The University of Alabama celebrated the newly renovated and expanded John and Ann Rhoads Softball Stadium on Tuesday.  Dr. Malcolm Portera, Chancellor of The University of Alabama System, Dr. Robert E. Witt, UA's President and Mal Moore, the Crimson Tide's Director of Athletics, as well as Ann Rhoads and UA softball coach Patrick Murphy, were among those present for the ribbon cutting ceremony.  The stadium is named for long-time Alabama softball supporter Ann Rhoads, one of the most avid followers of the full spectrum of the Tide's athletic programs, and her late husband.  Already considered one of the nation's top facilities, the Tide added a new clubhouse, featuring a new locker room, training room, video room and team area, as well as new state-of-the-art 7,930 square foot hitting facility, which is one of the largest in the country.  One of the nation's top destinations for softball action, Rhoads Stadium has led the nation in attendance over the last three years, including an NCAA record in 2009. The Tide welcomed over 70,000 fans to Tuscaloosa that season, shattering the old mark of 55,746, set by Fresno State in 1999.


The Alabama softball team moved up in both polls as it garnered the top ranking in the Softball Collegiate poll, as announced on Tuesday. The number one ranking marks the fifth straight season the Crimson Tide has sat atop the softball world. Alabama checked in at No. 3 in the USA Today/NFCA poll.   Week three marks the highest ranking of the year for all three of the top ranked squads in the poll, but each has received at least one No. 1 vote in weeks prior. Alabama led the way in week three with 11 first-place votes. Georgia received five and Florida claimed the remaining four.   Arizona (14-2), dropped to No. 4 this week following an 8-0 loss to Georgia in five innings at the Cathedral City Classic in Palm Springs, Calif. UCLA (12-3), which tied at No. 3 with Georgia for week two, dropped to No. 9 with a 4-1 loss to Florida and a 7-1 loss to now No. 8 Tennessee.   After a 4-1 showing the Cathedral City Classic last week, including an 8-0 win over previous No. 3 Arizona, Georgia (14-1) is the No. 1 team in the nation for the second week in a row, according to the latest USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 poll.  The Bulldogs staved off a tough challenge from undefeated Florida for the top spot, with Georgia garnering 18 of the 30 first-place votes, while the Gators notched 10. No. 2 Florida went 5-0 in the Cathedral City tournament, with their biggest win coming against last week's No. 2 UCLA.  Rounding out this week's top five were undefeated Alabama in third, Arizona in fourth and another unbeaten, Washington (13-0), in fifth.


Alabama Jackie Traina (Naples, Fla.) was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week, the league office announced Monday. Traina earns the accolade for the second straight week as she once again helped the Crimson Tide to a perfect 5-0 weekend and 6-0 week.   Traina hit .400 (6-for-15) with a team-best four home runs and tied for the team lead with 10 RBI over the weekend.  She broke the Alabama single game home run record by belting three homers against Western Michigan. In that contest, the Tide hit a single game record seven home runs, including back-to-back-to-back homers.

Traina also got the job done in the circle as she posted a 2-0 record and a 0.53 ERA. Traina finished the weekend with two, four RBI games, and had an extra base hit in three of the five contests.   In the circle Traina sports a 5-0 record with a 1.48 ERA. The right-hander has struck out 42 in 33 innings pitched and she has held opposing batters to just a .183 batting average.


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 this weekend's contest on a 25-game hitting streak.  The streak ties Jordan Praytor (2006) for second all-time at the Capstone.   Braud has tallied at least one hit in all 16 games thus far in 2011 and ended the 2010 campaign on a nine game hitting streak.  Kelly Kretschman's 35-game (1998) streak just lies 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: batting average (.401), slugging percentage (.732), on-base percentage (.491), runs scored (162), hits (175), RBI (153), home runs (38), total bases (319) and stolen bases (63).  In the circle, the Tide guide the way in: opposing batting average (.155) and hits allowed (52).


Numerous Alabama individuals currently pace the league in several categories. Kayla Braud (.510), Cassie Reilly-Boccia (.500) and Jackie Traina (.488) are in the top ten in batting average.  Traina is the leader in slugging percentage (1.098), home runs (8) and runs batted in (25).  Braud sits atop the conference in runs scored (24), hits (26) and stolen bases (26). In the circle, Kelsi Dunne leads the league in ERA (0.51) and opposing batting average (.089).  Dunne is second in the league in strikeouts (58).


The Crimson Tide will face off against No. 22 Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Ga., for a midweek matchup on Wednesday, March 9.  First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. CST.