No. 1 Bama softball heads to Baton Rouge to face LSU

TUSCALOOSA, AL The No. 1/1 ranked Alabama softball team (37-2, 12-1 SEC) will head to Baton Rouge, La., to face off against the LSU Tigers (22-12, 5-6 SEC) in a three-game Southeastern Conference weekend series. The two teams will begin the three-game set on Friday, April 8, with first pitch slated for 6:00 p.m. CDT inside Tiger Park. Game three will be televised live on ESPNU with coverage starting at 1:00 p.m. CDT. Beth Mowins and Jessica Mendoza will call the action in the series finale.


The No. 1-ranked Alabama softball team finished a perfect 4-0 on its road-trip to the Palmetto State, including a sweep over Southeastern Conference foe South Carolina. The Crimson Tide played four games in four days and opened the trip with a 7-1 win over the College of Charleston on Thursday. Alabama then downed South Carolina by identical 7-0 scores on Friday and Saturday. In the series finale the Tide blanked the Gamecocks, 1-0. For the week Alabama batted .306 with seven home runs and 22 RBI. The Tide pitched at a 0.25 clip, holding the opposition to a .105 average while striking out 36 in 28 innings. Leading the way individually for Alabama was senior Kelsi Dunne. The right-hander tossed her eighth career no-hitter and second of the season when she stymied South Carolina in the finale on Sunday. Dunne struck out 10 in that contest, going the full seven innings. On the week the senior was 2-0 and allowed just two hits while striking out 22 in 14 innings. At the plate sophomore Kayla Braud paced the Tide with a .417 average. Braud scored four runs, smacked a double and a grand slam and stole three bases.


The Tide has had several players step up since SEC play began. Freshman Kaila Hunt has led Alabama at the plate with a .448 average (13-for-29) with three home runs, six RBI and seven runs. On Friday against South Carolina, Hunt batted 3-for-4 with two home runs and two RBI. The pair of homers moves her season total to eight on the year. Junior Jennifer Fenton is batting a .385 average (10-for-26) with 11 RBI, seven runs and a team-high four stolen bases. Senior Whitney Larsen is hitting a .361 (13-for-36) with a team-high in both home runs (3) and RBI (13). On Sunday, Larsen collected two hits and drove in the lone run for the Tide. Braud has hit .333 (14-for-42) since league action began with a team-high in both doubles (4) and runs (14). Senior Kelsi Dunne is a perfect 8-0 against SEC opponents with 76 strikeouts.


The LSU softball team completed the weekend sweep of Arkansas at Bogle Park in Fayetteville, Ark. On Friday evening, Ashley Langoni turned in a 3-for-4 performance and racked up a career-best five RBIs to fuel the Tigers to an 8-0 victory over the Razorbacks to open the series. LSU also received a four-hit shutout from Rachele Fico in the circle. She notched five strikeouts and sat down 10 of the final 11 batters she faced. The following day, Juliana Santos equaled a program single-game record and provided a memorable 5-for-5 performance with three RBIs to lift the Tigers to a dominant 10-1 victory on Saturday. To close out the series, Fico mowed down 11 batters en route to a three-hit gem as LSU picked up its sixth straight victory, 1-0. The sophomore right-hander notched her second straight shutout, recorded a strikeout in every frame and surrendered only a trio of singles to advance to 7-8 on the season. Leading the way for the Tigers is Tammy Wray, who is batting a.309 this season with a team-high 26 RBI and a .553 slugging percentage. Closely behind Wray is Simone Heyward as she leads the team with 26 runs and 17 stolen bases while batting .309. In 14 appearances, Meaghan Patterson is 6-1 on the year with a 2.45 ERA and 88 strikeouts. LSU opened a stretch of six of its next seven games at Tiger Park with a 8-0 win Wednesday against Nicholls State.


LSU:  Late inning dramatics were the theme last season as then-No.6 Alabama softball team swept the doubleheader from then-No.14 LSU on a Wednesday evening at the Alabama Softball Complex. In game one, with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Tide freshman Kayla Braud hit a two-run single to center, lifting Alabama to a 3-1 victory over the Bayou Bengals. In game two, Jennifer Fenton was the hero of the night with the Tide's first walk off home run of the season in the bottom of the seventh with one out to grab the 4-3 victory. The two then met in the SEC Tournament championship game where Jazlyn Lunceford hit a solo home run on the sixth to hand the Tide the 5-4 win and tournament title. LSU, 31-27, is the only Southeastern Conference team that holds a series advantage over Alabama.


The Alabama softball team kept its stranglehold atop the collegiate softball rankings as it checked in at number one in both polls for the third consecutive week. The Crimson Tide was a unanimous number on in the Softball Poll and earned 29 of 30 first place votes in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 Poll.  After a successful road campaign that resulted in a win over College of Charleston and three over South Carolina, the Crimson Tide became the first team this season to sweep the No. 1 votes in the Softball Collegiate Top 25 poll. Also for the third week in a row, the Crimson Tide is the No. 1 team in the latest USA Today/NFCA Top 25 poll, according to a release issued by the Association on Tuesday. Alabama garnered 29 of the 30 first-place votes this week, while No. 3 Arizona State picked-up the remaining top vote. Georgia remained second this week, while Michigan dropped one spot to fourth and Texas (31-3) moved up three places from eighth to round out the top five.


Alabama senior pitcher Kelsi Dunne (Port Orange, Fla.) was named the Southeastern Conference Softball Pitcher of the Week, as announced by the league office Monday. The award is the second of the season for the All-American and the eighth conference weekly honor of her career. Dunne put together another solid weekend for the Crimson Tide earning two more wins, highlighted by a no-hitter, to move her record to 18-1 on the season. Dunne opened the series against South Carolina with a complete game, two-hit shutout. The right-hander struck out 12 and walked three. In the series finale, Dunne tossed her eighth career no-hitter and second of the season by striking out 10 and walking two. Dunne recorded her first no-hitter of the season against Jacksonville State on Feb. 12. On the week the senior was 2-0 and allowed just two hits while striking out 22 in 14 innings. The Gamecocks could only muster a .047 batting average against the right-hander.


Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy enters the weekend with 696 career victories, closing in on 700 wins. Murphy started off his career with 28 wins at Northwest Missouri State and has racked up 668 wins at the helm of the Crimson Tide program. Murphy earned his 600th win in walk-off fashion as Whitney Larsen belted a solo homer in the eighth inning to down Kentucky, 2-1, in the SEC Tournament semifinals in 2009. Overall, Murphy sports a 696-201 career record as he enters his 14th season as a head coach.


Alabama senior pitcher Kelsi Dunne took sole possession of second in total career strikeouts last Saturday in the series against Arkansas. This past weekend, Dunne notched 22 strikeouts against South Carolina to mark her career total at 1,075 strikeouts. Next on the list for the right-hander is record-holder Stephanie VanBrakle (1,113). Also, Dunne earned two wins over the Gamecocks to improve her career total in wins to 102. The senior allowed no runs and only two hits in two appearances against South Carolina. Shelly Laird holds the record with 115.


Alabama senior Whitney Larsen collected two hits and drove in four on the strength of her grand slam on Friday against South Carolina, which moves her home run total to nine on the season. Larsen now has 43 career homers which is third in UA history for career round-trippers. On the season, the senior has 41 RBI and is hitting .352. Charlotte Morgan ranks second all-time with 58 homers and Kelly Kretschman holds the top mark with 60 home runs.


The Crimson Tide is a perfect 17-0 at Rhoads Stadium for the 2011 season. Alabama is 5-0 against ranked opponents as well, including sweeps of then-No. 24 Auburn and then-No. 1 Georgia. Freshman Kaila Hunt has been more than impressive when at home this season, batting .483 with seven RBI and six runs. Junior Cassie Reilly-Boccia has knocked in 25 runs thus far and scored 16 times with a .40 batting average. Sophomore Kayla Braud is hitting a .418 average with 23 runs and nine swiped bases.  Senior Kelsi Dunne has been marvelous inside the circle, compiling a 10-0 record with a 1.43 ERA and 91 strikeouts. The Tide has outscored their opponents 153 to 40 in front of an average attendance of 2,753 fans inside Rhoads Stadium.


Alabama once again faces a tough schedule as the Crimson Tide has already played 24 games against teams that participated in the 2010 NCAA tournament. The Crimson Tide sports a 22-2 record in those games in 2011 with its only loss coming against No. 17 Louisiana-Lafayette (1-0, March 4) and No. 11 Tennessee (4-1, March 22).  They are a perfect 13-0 against the 2010 tourney teams inside the friendly confines of Rhoads Stadium.  The Tide has outscored those opponents 159-44 and is hitting .289 with 34 home runs and 146 RBI. In the circle, Alabama is pitching at a 1.58 clip and holding those teams to a .172 batting average. Sophomore Kayla Braud leads the team with a .442 average and has scored 26 runs and swiped 22 bases. Freshman Jackie Traina is batting .333 with eight home runs and 25 RBI. Cassie Reilly-Boccia closely follows with 26 RBI while adding a .328 average with five home runs. In the circle, senior Kelsi Dunne is 13-1 with a 1.23 ERA. She has struck out 138 in 85 2/3 innings.


Alabama holds an 8-2 record against ranked opponents in 2011. The Tide has outscored its ranked opposition 54-24 while hitting .237 with 10 home runs and 46 RBI. In the circle the Tide is pitching at a 2.09 clip and holding opponents to a .191 average. Alabama has now won seven of their last eight against ranked teams, including a sweep of No. 1 Georgia last weekend. Individually, Jennifer Fenton is hitting a .348 average with seven runs batted in.  Kayla Braud is batting .333 and scored a team-best 10 runs while adding four doubles. In the circle, Kelsi Dunne is 6-1 with a 2.04 ERA and has struck out 64 in 44 2/3 innings.


The Tide is currently dominating several categories in Division I softball. The Crimson Tide leads the NCAA in total stolen bases (97) due to Kayla Braud's team-leasing 41 stolen bases. Alabama ranks first in home runs (72), home runs per game (1.85) and slugging percentage (.628).  The Tide is sixth in total runs (307), ninth in ERA (1.35) and 13th in batting average (.337). Overall, Alabama has the best record in NCAA Division I softball.


Several Crimson Tide softball players contribute to their team's success. Kayla Braud leads the NCAA in stolen bases (41), fourth in runs scored (50), ranks 12th in batting average (.471) and 18th in on base percentage (.556). Jackie Traina's stellar freshman performance is being recognized as she ties for 10th in home runs (13). On the verge of becoming the Alabama's all-time strikeout queen, Kelsi Dunne is fifth in shutouts (8), tied for seventh in total wins (18) and 13th in both earned run average (1.09) and strikeouts (187).


With the hot start at the plate to the 2011 campaign, the Crimson Tide leads the Southeastern Conference in numerous statistical categories. Offensively, the Tide leads the circuit in: slugging percentage (.628), runs scored (307), home runs (72), total bases (610) and stolen bases (97). The team ranks second in runs batted in (286) and doubles (58). The Tide comes in at third in batting average (.337), on base percentage (.446) and hits (328). In the circle, the Tide leads the circuit in ERA (1.35), opposing batting average (.167), strikeouts (344), total wins (37), hits allowed (134) and runs allowed (61).


Numerous Alabama individuals currently pace the league in several categories. Kayla Braud leads the league in batting average (.471), stolen bases (41), runs scored (50), and tied for first in hits (56). Braud ranks second in on base percentage (.556). Jackie Traina comes in at second in home runs (13), third in slugging percentage (.865) while staying at fourth in runs batted in (42). In the circle, Kelsi Dunne is first in batters truck out (187) and opposing batting average (.130) while moving up to second in ERA (1.09).


The Alabama Crimson Tide will get little rest as it will face Troy on Tuesday at 6 p.m. CDT.  Afterwards, the Tide will return to Tuscaloosa after being on the road for their last eight games to clash with the Mississippi State Bulldogs on A-Day weekend.  The two SEC western foes will face off inside Rhoads Stadium with first pitch scheduled for Friday, April 15, at 6:30 p.m. CDT.

INFORMATION SOURCE: University of Alabama Athletics