Alabama softball to host Easton challenge

Thursday, March 10, 2011
Easton Challenge

No. 2 Softball Returns Home to Host the Easton SEC/ACC Challenge

Alabama's next nine games will be in Tuscaloosa

No. 2/3 ALABAMA (20-1)

Site: Rhoads Softball Stadium

Tickets: $5 Daily General Admission

TV: None

Radio: WVUA-FM 90.7 – Tuscaloosa (Chad Haynie)

Live Stats:

Streaming Video: Tide TV

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The No. 2/3 ranked Alabama softball team returns home to Tuscaloosa to host the Easton SEC/ACC Challenge. Alabama will compete against Florida State and North Carolina for a total of four games this weekend.  Mississippi State is also included in the field. This is the first time the Crimson Tide has played inside Rhoads Stadium since Feb. 20. The first game of the tournament will pit Alabama against North Carolina at 6 p.m. CST on Friday, March 11.


At the ESPN Wide World of Sports this past weekend, Alabama wrapped up the Citrus Classic with a 4-1 record at the tournament. The No. 2 ranked Crimson Tide softball team split its first two games of the Citrus Classic on Friday.  Alabama opened play with a 4-1 win over Notre Dame.  The win was the 17th in a row for the Crimson Tide. Alabama suffered its first loss of the season and was shutout for the first time since March 13, 2010, as it fell to No. 16 Louisiana-Lafayette, 1-0.  ULL pitcher Ashley Brignac (7-0) earned the shutout by allowing just two Kayla Braud hits while striking out six.  Alabama senior hurler Kelsi Dunne suffered her first loss of the season as she allowed one run on four hits while striking out 12.  On Saturday, Alabama junior Amanda Locke hit a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to lead the Crimson Tide past Fordham, 3-1.  Alabama concluded day two later in the evening with a convincing 10-0 win over No. 14 Oregon.  On Sunday morning, Traina got the job done at the plate and in the circle to lead the softball team to a 4-0 win over Virginia.


Braud is batting .538 (35-for-65) with 29 runs and 33 stolen bases. Coming off another great weekend for the freshman, Traina is now hitting .472 (25-for-53) on the year with a team-best 10 home runs and 32 RBI. She also leads the team with a 1.075 slugging percentage, 57 total bases and her .548 on base percentage ranks second on the squad. Traina is also a perfect 8-0 this season with a 0.94 ERA. After suffering her first loss at the Citrus Classic, Kelsi Dunne is now 8-1 thus far with a 0.51 ERA, and has thrown eight complete games. On the season, the Crimson Tide has now outscored its opponents 183-31, and has crushed 42 home runs. Alabama has scored 10 or more runs on eight different occasions this season.


In the midst of a 10-game road trip, North Carolina (14-8) played six games in a span from last Friday to this past Tuesday. The Tar Heels competed in the Citrus Classic, compiling a 2-3 record at the tournament. North Carolina received wins over Temple, 8-3, and Long Island, 6-5. Their losses came against No. 14 Oregon, 1-0, Notre Dame, 4-3, and Fordham, 1-0. On Tuesday night, Kelli Wheeler registered two hits and three RBI to lead North Carolina to a come-from-behind victory over UCF, 7-4, at the UCF Softball Complex. Lori Spingola tossed a complete game to nab the win for the Tar Heels.  Spingola (11-6) allowed four runs, three earned, on five hits in seven innings of work. The Atlanta, Ga., native also fanned nine Knight batters. Wheeler paced the UNC offense with three RBI and two hits.  Senior Brittany McKinney added a pair of hits and a RBI in the win.  Jordan Scarboro, Tisha Mahon, Brittany Robinson and Ally Blake all added hits to round out the UNC attack.  Carolina features a balanced attack with a .292 team batting average, 2.68 staff ERA and a .959 fielding percentage.


The Seminoles (12-9) are coming off a 3-1 performance at last weekend's Big Ten/Mountain West/ACC Challenge, where they defeated Wisconsin twice and split with Utah. Leading the way in the four-game slate was catcher/first baseman Jen Lapicki, who went 6-for-12 with one home run, four runs and nine RBIs without striking out. Fifth-year senior Robin Ahrberg also went 6-for-12 and added four RBIs last week, and junior Shayla Jackson added five hits, including a double, and two RBIs. Stepping up in the circle was sophomore pitcher Morgan Bullock, who went 2-0 with a complete-game performance against the Utes on Sunday. Senior Sarah Hamilton finished 1-1 with 15 strikeouts in 12 innings pitched.

Sophomore Tiffani Brown continues to lead the Seminoles in an array of categories, including at-bats (64), runs scored (22), base hits (23), triples (4), total bases (35) and stolen bases (12). As a unit, FSU has swiped 36 of 37 stolen base attempts this season, including a season-high seven in its last victory over Wisconsin. On Tuesday evening, FSU began a six-game trip away from home, beginning with a matchup at No. 24 Auburn.  Despite out-hitting the opposition, all it took was one swing of the bat for Auburn to put away the Florida State softball team as it won 5-3 at Jane B. Moore Field.  Kelsey Cartwright's grand slam in the third inning gave the Tigers an insurmountable 5-0 lead and a sizeable advantage for starting left-hander Jenee Loree to work with. FSU starter Sarah Hamilton (5-6) took the loss despite pitching well aside from Auburn's five-run inning.  Florida State's scheduled game versus Penn State on Wednesday was canceled due to rain and lightning.


North Carolina:  Alabama has an impressive 5-0 record against North Carolina. This will be the first time the Tide and the Tar Heels have faced each other since February 26, 2005, when Alabama shut-out North Carolina, 1-0, at the NFCA Leadoff Classic. Stephanie VanBrakle struck out 12 and threw a two-hit shutout to help the Tide to victory. Alabama's offense was unable to generate any runs early in the game, stranding six runners over the first four innings. However, VanBrakle kept UNC in check, throwing four and one-thirds perfect innings before allowing a hit.

Florida State:  The Tide and the Seminoles are all-tied up in their series, 2-2. Alabama won the last outing against Florida State, 6-3, back on March 19, 2007, in the NCAA Regional in Tuscaloosa. The Tide jumped out to an early lead, scoring in the first inning and then adding two runs in the fourth and sixth inning as well as a single run in the fifth. FSU got on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth inning and added two more at the top of the seventh before getting closed out. Kelley Montalvo sparked the Tide's offensive surge, hitting a school record three doubles in the game.  Alabama went on to advance to the NCAA Super Regional that season.


The Alabama softball team is off to a hot start to the 2011 campaign and it has shown on the stat-sheet. The Crimson Tide has already smashed 42 home runs, 21 games into the season. The most ever hit by an Alabama team 21 games into the season was 27, twice, in 2007 and 1999. The Tide is hitting at a .365 clip which ties the best mark at the plate, set in 2008. The 171 RBI and 74 stolen bases is also the most through 21 games. Individually, freshman Jackie Traina is off to the best power start in school history as she has smacked 10 home runs and drove in 32 RBI. The closest ever to start a season was seven home runs and 28 RBI by Mandy Burford in 2007. Sophomore Kayla Braud sports a .538 average which is the second best start as Brittany Rogers batted .565 in 2008. Braud has swiped 33 bases already which is the best start on the base paths in school history. Overall the 20-1 record equals (2008) the second best start in school history as Alabama has started a season off 21-0 (2007 & 2001) twice.


Alabama senior pitcher Kelsi Dunne is rapidly approaching 1,000 career strikeouts as she enters the weekend with 978. She would become the third Alabama player to record 1,000 punchouts as Shelley Laird fanned 1045 batters and Stephanie VanBrakle holds the record with 1113 strikeouts. Dunne broke the Alabama single season strikeout record last season as she fanned 355, just the fourth time an Alabama player has struck out 300 or more.


Sophomore Kayla Braud saw her 28-game hitting streak come to an end as she was called out on a bang-bang play at first in her last at-bat of the contest against Oregon after drawing three walks in her first three at-bats. The streak is the second longest in Alabama softball history as Kelly Kretschman's 35-game (1998) streak is still the all-time record at Alabama and in the SEC. Over that span Braud hit .562 (50-for-89) and this season currently sports a .538 clip that paces not just the team but the conference as well.


With the hot start at the plate to start the 2011 campaign, the Crimson Tide leads the Southeastern Conference in five statistical categories.  Offensively, the Tide leads the circuit in: runs scored (183), RBI (171), home runs (42), total bases (365) and stolen bases (74).  The team ranks second in batting average (.365), slugging percentage (.656) and hits (203), and third in on-base percentage (.455).  In the circle, the Tide rank second in ERA (1.20), opposing batting average (.155), strikeouts (184) and wins (20).


Numerous Alabama individuals currently pace the league in several categories. Kayla Braud (.538) and Jackie Traina (.472) are in the top ten in batting average as Braud leads the league and Traina checks in at fifth.  Braud sits atop the conference in on base percentage (.608), hits (35), stolen bases (33) and ranks second in runs scored (29). Traina is the leader in slugging percentage (1.075) and home runs (10), and ranks second in runs batted in (32) and total bases (57).  In the circle, Kelsi Dunne is first in opposing batting average (.098) and batters truck out (90).  Dunne is second in the league in ERA (0.51).


Alabama will now open Southeastern Conference play against the Auburn Tigers in a doubleheader on Wednesday, March 16. The first game is set for 3 p.m. CST.  Both games will be broadcasted live on CSS.

INFORMATION SOURCE: Univeristy of Alabama Athletics