Alabama softball prepares for NCAA postseason play

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Alabama softball team (46-8) will return to the friendly confines of Rhoads Stadium to host the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional. The Crimson Tide was awarded the number-two seed and will host Jackson State (26-20), Chattanooga (42-12) and Memphis (35-12). Alabama will open play against Jackson State on Friday, May 20, at 6 p.m. CT. UTC and Memphis will get the tournament started at 3:30 p.m.


The Alabama softball team fell in the semifinal round at the Southeastern Conference tournament. The Tide opened play with a 5-1 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs before falling to Georgia, 4-2. Alabama senior Whitney Larsen and junior Jennifer Fenton were named to the all-tournament team. Both players batted .500 in the two games for Alabama, both going 3-for-6 from the plate. The duo also added two runs apiece. Larsen added a home run and four RBI and also smacked two doubles. In the tournament opener against Mississippi State, Larsen batted 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a three-run home run which proved to be the game-winning hit. Fenton batted 2-for-3 with a run scored. In the semifinal against Georgia, Larsen hit an RBI double while Fenton scored a run, drew a walk and tallied a single.

Over the last 10 games, junior Amanda Locke continues to pace the Crimson Tide at the plate. Locke is hitting .387 over that span with three home runs and 14 RBI. Sophomore Kayla Braud follows with a .353 average and has added 11 runs, a home run, three RBI and six stolen bases. In the circle, Kelsi Dunne is 5-1 with a 1.31 ERA. The senior has struck out 56 in 42 2/3 innings while holding opponents to a meager .123 batting average.


The Lady Tigers will be playing in its first ever NCAA regional as they made a run through the SWAC tournament to win its first ever conference championship. JSU beat Mississippi Valley State, 6-2 in the conference championship game to earn the berth to Tuscaloosa. The Lady Tigers sport a 26-20 record, including a 14-3 mark in SWAC play. As a team JSU is hitting at a .279 clip, has hit 26 home runs and drove in 197 runs. They have out-scored their opponents, 230-207. The Lady Tigers pitch at a 4.17 ERA and hold its opponents to a .228 average. Individually, Farren Wright leads the team with a .391 average while adding four home runs and 30 RBI. Wendi Reed follows with a .349 average, has scored 46 runs, hit eight home runs, driven in 29 and swiped 55 bags in 59 chances. In the circle, LeEthel Guillory paces the team with a 2.89 ERA and a 13-9 record. She has struck out 123 in 143 1/3 innings pitched. Rick Fremin is in his first season as the head coach at Jackson State, coming to the program from his alma mater, Belhaven University.

The Lady Mocs earned its highest seed in program history as it will be the No. 2 seed at the Tuscaloosa regional. Chattanooga captured the Southern Conference Tournament title on Saturday with an 11-2 victory after five innings against College of Charleston at Eagle Field in Statesboro, Ga. The Lady Mocs have earned the league's automatic bid for the eighth time in 12 years. UTC sports a 42-12 overall record and a 20-3 mark in SoCon play. As a team they are hitting at a nation-best  .352 clip, have added 55 home runs and tallied 356 RBI. The Lady Mocs have out-scored its opponents 378-143 and pitch at a 2.43 clip while holding opponents to a .230 average. Individually Vivian Morimoto leads the team with a .422 batting average while adding six home runs and 31 RBI. Michelle Fuzzard follows with a .412 average with 14 home runs and a team-best 75 RBI. Tiffany Baker leads the team with 15 home runs while batting at a .369 clip and adding 61 RBI. In the circle, Nikki Waters is 13-3 with a 2.27 ERA in 21 starts. She has struck out 91 in 108 innings. Kandice Irwin has come out of the bullpen to tally seven saves to go along with her 1.55 ERA and 12-3 record. She leads the team with 102 strikeouts in 99 2/3 innings. UTC head coach Frank Reed is in his 10th season and will be making his fourth postseason appearance in Tuscaloosa as the team has come to Alabama five times overall.


The Tigers will be making their first ever NCAA tournament appearance after earning an at-large bid to the Tuscaloosa regional. Memphis is hot as of late as it has earned wins in 14 of its past 16 games en route to posting its best record in school history (35-12). The Tigers are one of five teams from Conference USA making a postseason appearance in 2011. As a team Memphis is hitting .249 with 38 home runs and 185 RBI. UM has out-scored its opponents 213-106, has pitched at a 1.73 ERA while holding opponents to a .194 batting average. Individually Heather Mott leads the team with a .364 average, adding 10 home runs and 29 RBI. Jessica Phillips has provided the punch with 15 home runs and 44 RBI while adding a .338 average. In the circle, Carly Hummel is 20-6 with a 1.32 ERA. Hummel has struck out 185 in 153 1/3 innings and held opponents to a .139 batting clip. Janelle Valle follows with a 20-13 record and a 1.68 ERA. She has fanned 51 in 79 1/3 innings. Head coach Windy Thees has been with the program through its entire six year period and returns eight starters and 16 letterwinners from a team that finished 25-26 in 2010.


Jackson State: The two teams will be meeting for just the third time as they last met back in a doubleheader in 2002. Alabama downed JSU 2-0 in the first game and then 9-1 in five innings in the night cap on April 3 of that year.

Chattanooga: The two teams are quite familiar with each other as this meeting will mark the 10th overall between the two programs with the Crimson Tide holding a 7-2 advantage. The two teams last met in the 2008 Tuscaloosa Regional, where UA earned an 8-0 win in six innings. Six UTC players have already made an appearance at Rhoads Stadium during NCAA play.

Memphis: In the six seasons of softball at Memphis, it has only faced Alabama once. That meeting came in the second game of the 2009 season when the Tide downed the Tigers, 7-2, at the South Alabama Invitational in Mobile, Ala.

The Crimson Tide earned its 13th consecutive NCAA tournament bid in 2011. In just 15 years of existence, the Alabama softball program will be playing in its 13th NCAA Regional this weekend. The Tide has advanced to an NCAA Regional in every season under head coach Patrick Murphy. The Crimson Tide have a 41-13 record in NCAA Regional action (including regional (32-9) and super regional (9-4)) and have won eight NCAA Regional titles (2000, `03, `05, `06, `07, '08, '09 & `10). It is the seventh consecutive year Alabama has been selected to host an NCAA Regional. The Tide is 25-3 in regional games played at Rhoads Stadium, including a winning streak of 13 games.


The Alabama softball team earned its third Southeastern Conference regular season title by sweeping Mississippi in the final regular season series to finish with a 19-6 ledger in league play. The regular season title is the third in program history for Alabama as it finished first last season with a 23-4 record and in 2006 with a 25-4 conference mark.


Alabama senior Kelsi Dunne (Port Orange, Fla.) and sophomore Kayla Braud (Eugene, Ore.) were named Top 10 Finalists for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, as announced by the organization.

The award, which is considered the most prestigious honor in Division I women's collegiate softball, is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country.


The Alabama softball team garnered six Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I All-Region selections, the National Fastpitch Coaches Association announced Thursday. The Crimson Tide had five named to the first team and one to the second team in the South Region. Alabama seniors Kelsi Dunne (Port Orange, Fla.) and Whitney Larsen (Vestavia Hills, Ala.) earned first team honors and were joined by junior Amanda Locke (Mesquite, Texas), sophomore Kayla Braud (Eugene, Ore.) and freshman Jackie Traina (Naples, Fla.). Junior Jennifer Fenton (Kennesaw, Ga.) was named to the second team.

Alabama had five players earn all-conference honors, the league announced before the SEC tournament. Senior Kelsi Dunne was named the SEC Pitcher of the Year for the second straight season and was also named to the first-team and all-defensive team. Joining Dunne on the All-SEC first-team was senior Whitney Larsen, who also earned all-defensive team honors and sophomore Kayla Braud. Junior Amanda Locke earned second-team honors while newcomer Kaila Hunt was named to the all-freshman team.

The Crimson Tide has played 27 games against teams that made the field of 64 in 2011. Against those teams Alabama is 19-8, but has dropped seven of its last eight. The Tide is 10-0 at Rhoads Stadium against tournament teams. The Tide is hitting .254 with 30 home runs and 134 RBI in those games and has out-scored its opponents 150-63. Alabama is pitching at a 1.75 clip while holding the opposition to just a .185 average. Kayla Braud leads the team with a .381 average and has added 37 hits, 23 runs, two home run, 11 RBI and 18 stolen bases. Jackie Traina has provided the punch with seven home runs and 22 RBI. In the circle, Kelsi Dunne is 12-3 with a 1.50 ERA. She has struck out 151 in 107 2/3 innings.


Alabama has taken advantage of playing in front of its home crowd as it sports a perfect 20-0 record in 2011. The 20 straight wins is the third longest streak in the country as Texas A&M has won 24 and BYU and tallied 22 straight wins. At home, Alabama has out-scored its opponents 177-47, hit at a .360 average, smacked 44 home runs and driven in 161 runs. In the circle, UA boasts a 2.12 ERA and has held opponents to a .194 batting average. Kayla Braud and Cassie Reilly-Boccia lead the team with .429 averages. Braud has collected 27 hits, scored 25 runs and stolen 10 bases. Reilly-Boccia has smacked seven home runs and driven in 26 runs while adding a .939 slugging percentage. In the circle, Kelsi Dunne is 12-0 with a 1.45 ERA. She has struck out 109 in 67 2/3 innings and held opponents to a .149 batting average.

Alabama continues to stay hot at the plate during their 2011 campaign. The Crimson Tide is amongst the leaders in the Southeastern Conference in numerous statistical categories. Offensively, the Tide leads the circuit in stolen bases (129). Alabama ranks second in home runs (85). The Tide comes in at third in slugging percentage (.558), runs scored (393), runs batted in (357) and on base percentage (.425). In the circle, the Tide leads the circuit in ERA (1.37), opposing batting average (.168), strikeouts (471), hits allowed (209) and runs allowed (93). (As of May 17)

Numerous Alabama individuals currently pace the league in several categories. Kayla Braud leads the SEC in stolen bases (50). Braud ranks second in runs scored (63) and batting average (.437), third in hits (76) and on-base percentage (.522). Jackie Traina comes in at fourth in slugging percentage (.714) and ninth in home runs (13). In the circle, Kelsi Dunne is first in batters struck out (272) and opposing batting average (.132). Dunne is second in ERA (1.17) and third in wins (24). (As of May 17)

As a team Alabama ranks in the top 10 in the country in six categories. The Tide rank third in home runs per game (1.57) and stolen bases per game (2.39). Alabama checks in ranked fourth in slugging percentage (.563) and win-loss percentage (.852), fifth in scoring (7.28/gm) and in ERA (1.37). Individually Kayla Braud ranks second in the nation with 50 stolen bases and third in stolen bases per game (0.93). Braud also ranks fifth with 1.17 runs per game. Kelsi Dunne ranks third in hits allowed per seven innings (3.12) and 11th in ERA (1.17) and strikeouts per seven innings (10.2). (As of May 17)

INFORMATION SOURCE: University of Alabama Athletics