The Battle Plan



June 9, 2014

Alabama has an unprecedented six student-athletes on the 2014 Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-America At-Large Team, including five who earned first-team honors. Unlike other Academic All-American teams which honor student-athletes from one sport, the at-large teams span several sports, making for a deeper and more challenging pool of candidates. The at-large team considers student-athletes from the sports of men's and women's fencing, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, rifle, skiing, swimming and diving, tennis and water polo as well as men's volleyball and wrestling and women's bowling, field hockey and rowing.

Never before have we produced so many at-large honorees. First team honorees for this year are Kim Jacob (gymnastics), Stephanie Meadow (women's golf), Cory Whitsett (men's golf), Bobby Wyatt (men's golf) and Mary Anne Daines (women's tennis) while gymnast Lauren Beers earned second-team honors. Kim, Stephanie and Cory all earned the honor for the second time.

In addition, senior gymnast Kim Jacob was named Academic All-America of the Year. I am very pleased that Kim has continued Alabama's legacy of success when it comes to the Academic All-America of the Year program. This marks the seventh time that an Alabama student-athlete has received this prestigious honor, the fifth time in as many years.

Overall, our student-athletes have earned a school-record 11 Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-American honors to this point in the 2013-14 academic year with the six at-large selections joining four softball players (Molly Fichtner, Kaila Hunt, Haylie McCleney and Ryan Iamurri) as well as one soccer player (Kendall Khanna) who also earned that honor. These latest honors are a testament not only to the importance our athletes and coaches put on academic excellence, but the great work that Jon Dever and his staff at our Center for Academic Student Services do on a daily basis.

Stephanie Meadow and Emma Talley, competed for opposing teams over the weekend at the 2014 Curtis Cup Match in St. Louis. Stephanie, one of the heroes of Great Britain and Ireland's 2012 Curtis Cup victory, teamed up with Georgia Hall in the first four-ball match against Emma and Mariah Stackhouse, representing the United States. The USA regained the Curtis Cup Sunday with a 13-7 victory. With a 9.5-2.5 lead heading into Sunday's eight singles matches, the USA team needed only one point to seal the victory, and that was provided by Emma, who carded a 4 and 3 win in the afternoon's first match. A departing senior, Stephanie ended her amateur career on a positive note with a 2 and 1 win over her American opponent. Not only are both of these young ladies outstanding golfers and students, they also are tremendous ambassadors for our University.

Coach Dan Waters' TRACK & FIELD team sends 19 athletes in 14 events this week to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon, which run from this Wednesday-Sunday (June 11-15). The team has developed into a factor nationally this year, but may have to compete at the NCAA meet without its top athlete, as sprinter Diondre Batson is struggling with a hamstring injury. Diondre was unable to compete at the regional meet due to an injury suffered at the SEC championships last month. This was a critical blow to the men's team's scoring potential at the conference meet.

Diondre is one of those special athletes often described in this blog. He is a young man who came to Alabama with great potential, but was relatively undeveloped as a sprinter after being a football/track athlete most of his life. He blossomed here in Tuscaloosa over the last two years, winning a pair of SEC titles and NCAA indoor 200-meter championship while becoming the catalyst and a leader for the entire team. Diondre Batson is a name to remember. His career at Alabama may end quietly, but I would not be surprised if we hear his name on a much bigger stage in the very near future.

We will have a versatile group of athletes competing in Eugene, covering the gamut of all the events that make up a track & field team. I know the coaches are still expecting some big things from this team. Look for Remona Burchell in the women's sprints. She has had an outstanding season and appears primed and ready for nationals after she ran an amazing 100-meter dash time of 11.03, breaking Pauline Davis' 28-year-old Alabama record of 11.11. Remona's time is the best wind-legal time by a collegian this season.

Three members of the team have been selected to the 2014 Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District IV Track & Field/Cross Country Team. Junior Nia Barnes, senior Alexis Paine and sophomore Kevin Shannon all earned places on the district team and will move forward to the national ballot. Nia will compete in the hammer throw next week at the NCAA outdoor meet. In the classroom, she has a 4.0 GPA while studying telecommunications and film/media production. Alexis was a 2013 Capital One Academic All-American. She recently graduated with a degree in english and a 3.89 GPA. She finished her Tide career as the school's most storied pole vaulter - earning All-American honors three times, winning the 2013 SEC Indoor Championship and bettering the school record multiple times in the event. Kevin maintains a 3.98 GPA while majoring in mechanical engineering. He posted three top-five finishes in the javelin during the outdoor season and has one of the 10 best throws in school history.

After an opening win over Oklahoma, 6-2, that appeared in the last blog, our SOFTBALL team rode Jaclyn Traina's outstanding pitching to the championship round of the Women's College World Series (WCWS) last week. Alabama enjoyed victories over Kentucky (2-0) on a two-run home run by Leon Lafaele, and a 2-0 win over top-seeded Oregon. Against the Ducks, Haylie McCleney went 2-4 with her 10th home run of the season to break a scoreless tie in the fifth inning and Molly Fichtner drove in the second RBI of the day off a single later in the same inning. Heading into the championship series with Florida, Jaclyn had struck out 23 batters over 21.0 innings pitched in the WCWS, allowing just one earned run off nine hits.

Coach Patrick Murphy's team completed another outstanding season last week by making the championship series an All SEC final, as Alabama and Florida each sailed through the tournament. Ironically, neither team made it to the finals of the SEC Tournament, which clearly illustrates how tough the competition is in our league.

Although we were defeated by Florida in the best-of-three series to determine the national champion, our team produced another season of which we all can be proud. Our season ended with a 6-3 loss to Florida in Oklahoma City last Tuesday night. The Crimson Tide finished the year with a 53-13 record while the Gators won their first national softball championship with a mark of 55-12. It was Alabama's second trip to the championship series in the last three years after winning the first NCAA softball title by an SEC school in 2012. We lose some great seniors, but this team has outstanding young talent and we are all excited about our prospects for next season.

The Tide BASEBALL team showed plenty of grit in its performance at the Tallahassee Regional, advancing to the championship round before ending its season. After losing the opener to Kennesaw State, the Tide reeled off three tough victories including knocking host and No. 5 ranked Florida State out of the tournament.

Our team this year had a solid season, and I am excited about the future as the rebuilding of Sewell-Thomas Stadium begins this summer. You will hear a lot more about this project in future blogs, but it will take Alabama's baseball stadium from its ranking near the bottom of the SEC back to the top. And it is encouraging to note the number of freshmen and sophomores who contributed this season.

This season marked the fourth time in the last five years that Alabama played in the NCAA Tournament. Ten SEC teams made it into the tournament this year while only two made it to the Super Regionals. There are a lot of good baseball teams around the country. Four of our players - Austen Smith, Mikey White, Chance Vincent and Ben Moore, were named to the Tallahassee Regional All-Tournament Team.

After losing the opener to Kennesaw State in a tough 1-0 pitchers' duel, the Tide rose to the occasion and staved off elimination in three consecutive games over two days to set up a showdown for the regional title with KSU, which entered the regional as perhaps the hottest team in the nation having won 24 of 25. hey took a 4-2 decision to end our season. The Tide stayed alive largely due to outstanding pitching. Freshman Taylor Guilbeau set up the regional title showdown when he threw the first complete game of his Alabama career while snapping KSU's nine-game winning streak. Earlier on the same day, Geoffrey Bramblett allowed only two hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in a complete game, 6-0 shutout win over Georgia Southern. At one point during the game, Geoffrey retired 14 straight batters and 18 of the first 19 batters he faced in the game.

A nerve-wracking 6-5 win over Florida State set up the heroics, as the Tide eliminated the home-standing Seminoles. Starting pitcher Justin Kamplain threw eight innings and the Tide held on in the ninth inning to defeat the Seminoles, 6-5. Justin allowed one run on five hits with four walks and three strikeouts, leaving in the ninth after a pair of singles began the FSU rally from a 6-0 Tide lead. Prior to the allowing a run in the ninth, Justin had not allowed a run in 18.1 consecutive innings. Florida State scored five runs in the ninth, but closer Thomas Burrows eventually stopped the rally with the tying run at third, collecting all three out and his 11th save of the season. The Tide was in the loser's bracket due to an outstanding performance by Kennesaw State starting pitcher Travis Bergen in the opener as he threw 8.2 innings of shutout ball to lead the Owls to a 1-0 verdict. The Tide's Spencer Turnbull was the tough-luck loser, allowing just one run on three hits with four walks and two strikeouts in 6.1 innings.

Congratulations to Tide right-handed pitcher Spencer Turnbull, who was selected last Thursday night by the Detroit Tigers in the second round of the First-Year Major League Baseball Draft. Spencer was the 63rd selection overall and is the first player from this year's team selected in this year's draft. Spencer is the highest drafted Crimson Tide player since 2006. Three other Alabama players were selected in the draft: outfielder Ben Moore (eighth round by the Boston Red Sox), pitcher Justin Kamplain (18th round by the New York Yankees) and first baseman Austen Smith (33rd round by the Miami Marlins).

I was very proud to learn last week that our 2014 Alabama men's SWIMMING & DIVING team has been named the "Break-Out Team" of the year by the College Swimming & Diving Honors Program. The award went to our men's squad that smashed 12 school records this season, including all five relay marks. This season's round of record smashing came in just the second year of coach Dennis Pursley's tenure as head coach and was just part of a larger surge focused on returning Alabama to the nation's elite. As a team, our men jumped six spots at the SEC Championships, taking fourth for our highest finish since 1995. The men climbed 16 spots at the NCAA Championships, the biggest leap in the standing of any team in the nation from 2013 to 2014. Individually, freshman Kristian Gkolomeev won the NCAA 50 freestyle championship while fellow freshman Anton Mckee set the SEC record in the 200 breaststroke on the way to an SEC title.

Our track & field team is the final Tide team in action. Here's information on how to follow the progress of the team at next week's NCAA Outdoor Championships:

Track and Field at the NCAA Outdoor Championships (Eugene, Oregon) Live Results - (Oregon's athletics website - exact link to be determined)

Here's a summary of athletics events over the next several days (times listed are for the location of the event):

Wednesday, June 11

Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
All DayTrack & FieldNCAA ChampionshipsEugene, Oregon

Thursday, June 12

Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
All DayTrack & FieldNCAA ChampionshipsEugene, Oregon

Friday, June 13

Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
All DayTrack & FieldNCAA ChampionshipsEugene, Oregon

Saturday, June 14

Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
All DayTrack & FieldNCAA ChampionshipsEugene, Oregon

Sunday, June 15

Time Sport Opponent/Event Location
All DayTrack & FieldNCAA ChampionshipsEugene, Oregon

Your fan support this season has been tremendous! And football season and a new academic and athletic year will be here soon! A rising tide lifts all boats and it's up to all of us to Keep the Tide Rising!


    The Battle Plan