Softball Heads to Mardi Gras Invitational to Start 2012 Season



Feb. 9, 2012

Games 1-4 |  No. 2/3 Alabama (0-0, 0-0 SEC) at Mardi Gras Invitational

Friday, Feb. 10 3 p.m. CT | Memphis
Saturday, Feb. 11 3 p.m. CT | Lipscomb
Saturday, Feb. 11  5:30 p.m. CT | South Alabama
Sunday, Feb. 13 2:30 p.m. CT | Jacksonville State

 Location Mobile, Ala. | Jaguar Field (892)
 Tickets $25 Tourney Pass | $10 Daily
 Television None
 Radio Friday | Saturday | Sunday | WVUA 90.7 FM | Chad Haynie
 Live Stats GameTracker (Gm 1) | GameTracker (Gm 2) | GameTracker (Gm 3) | GameTracker (Gm 4)
 Game Notes Alabama Notes Get Acrobat Reader | SEC Notes Get Acrobat Reader
Tourney Record 4-0 (All Games Played in 2009)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama softball team will open its 2012 schedule by traveling to Mobile, Ala., this weekend to take part in the Mardi Gras Invitational at Jaguar Field, hosted by South Alabama. Alabama will face off against Memphis and Jacksonville State – both 2011 NCAA tournament participants, Lipscomb – a 2010 NCAA tournament participant and tourney host, South Alabama. Alabama opens tournament play against Memphis at 3 p.m., on Friday, February 10.

The Alabama softball team (53-11, 19-6 SEC) capped off its 2011 season with its best finish at the Women’s College World Series in program history, placing third at the eight-team event. The Crimson Tide won its first ever opening round game at the WCWS, downing Cal, 1-0, before defeating Baylor, 3-0. Alabama fell in the semifinals to Florida, losing twice to miss out on the chance to advance to the national championship series.

Alabama made its 13th straight NCAA tournament appearance and hosted a NCAA Regional for the seventh straight season and ninth overall. The Crimson Tide claimed the Tuscaloosa Regional title by defeating Jackson State, Memphis and Chattanooga. Alabama then downed Stanford in the Tuscaloosa Super Regional, after dropping the first game to rally and win the next two to advance to Oklahoma City.

The Crimson Tide won its second straight SEC regular season title and third overall. Alabama finished 25-1 at Rhoads Stadium and welcomed 68,119 fans for an average of 2,619 per contest. Kayla Braud, Jackie Traina, Whitney Larsen and Kelsi Dunne were named NFCA All-Americans.

Alabama returns two All-Americans in Kayla Braud and Jackie Traina. Braud earned All-American honors for the second straight season as she once again paced the Tide in numerous offensive categories. The fleet-footed outfielder led the nation with 58 stolen bases and ranked 15th in the country with a .436 batting average. Traina, despite being just a freshman, proved to be one of the top two-way players in the country. She batted .351, slugged 13 home runs while posting 19 wins and a 1.70 ERA in the circle.

Memphis enters the 2012 campaign coming off of its best season in school history. In only their sixth season of existence, the Tigers went 36-14, posting a school record .720 winning percentage and finished fourth in Conference USA. Memphis was selected for its first ever NCAA tournament appearance, where they were sent to the Tuscaloosa Regional. The Tigers return 14 letterwinners from last season’s squad, including five of 10 starters and three pitchers. Senior first baseman Jessica Phillips returns after her record setting junior year, where she set school records with 15 home runs and 44 RBI. In the circle, Carly Hummel returns. She was a big reason for their success last season, posting a 21-8 record with a 1.46 ERA. The right-hander struck out 196 in 168 1/3 innings pitched. Opponents hit a paltry .140 against the sophomore a year ago. The Tigers are led by first-year head coach Natalie Poole, who enters Memphis with a record of 312-299 in 10 seasons of coaching, previously coaching at McNeese State.

Lipscomb comes into the 2012 season coming off of a 2011 Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament runner-up finish. The Lady Bison finished the 2011 season with a 30-20 record and went 15-5 in conference play. Individually Lipscomb returns its top hitter in Caroline Mason. She paced the team in average (.307), hits (43), doubles (10), home runs (9) and total bases (82). In the circle Whitney Kiihnl returns after posting one of the top seasons by a pitcher in 2010 followed by another solid campaign in 2011. Last season she went 20-11 with a 1.69 ERA, striking out 328 in 211 1/3 innings pitched. Head coach Kristin Ryman returns for her seventh season, leading the Bison to a 183-133-1 record over that span. In 2010 she paced Lipscomb to a Tuscaloosa Regional runner-up finish.

The Jaguars of South Alabama recorded a school record 37 wins in 2011, going 37-17 overall and 15-10 in conference play. They return seven letterwinners off of last season’s team, including starting pitcher and Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year Hannah Campbell, who went 19-7 a year ago. Junior Brittany Fowler, a second team all-conference selection, led the team in hits (53), triples (3), and runs batted in (52). Becky Clark enters her sixth season as head coach, and has compiled a 299-156-2 record in nine seasons in Mobile.

Jacksonville State is coming off of its fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance after winning the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament for the second straight season. The Gamecocks advanced to the Louisville Regional, where they were eliminated by the host Louisville Cardinals. They finished the 2011 season with a 40-21 record.

Memphis:  This will be the third meeting between the Tide and Tigers, with Alabama winning both games. These two teams last met in the 2011 Tuscaloosa Regional, with Alabama winning, 7-1. The Tigers scored first in the bottom of the first inning, only to see the Tide score seven unanswered runs. Whitney Larsen batted 3-for-3 in the contest and drove in five runs. In two games against Memphis, senior Cassie Reilly-Boccia leads the team with a .571 average (4-for-7) and has added a double and three RBI. Senior Jennifer Fenton closely follows with a .429 lifetime average (3-for-7) and has added three runs and three stolen bases.

Lipscomb: The Tide and Bison have faced off five times previously, with Alabama holding a 4-1 series lead. The two teams last faced off in 2010 at the Tuscaloosa Regional, with Alabama winning 5-2 in their first meeting, then defeating the Lady Bison 6-0 to win the regional. Lipscomb defeated the Tide in 2005, 4-2, for their only win in the series. Kayla Braud leads the team against the Bison with a .500 (3-for-6) lifetime average, adding a stolen base. Courtney Conley has added the punch with two career home runs and a .400 average (2-for-5).

South Alabama: The Tide and Jaguars have faced off four previous times, with Alabama winning all four games. Last season, Alabama knocked off South Alabama, 6-0, with freshman pitcher Jackie Traina pitching a six inning two-hitter at the All-Alabama Classic. Cassie Reilly-Boccia has nine career at-bats against USA, posting a .444 average with three runs and a RBI. Jennifer Fenton has blasted a home run, scored three runs and swiped three bases while Jazlyn Lunceford has stolen four bases, scored four runs and hit .375 in eight lifetime at-bats.

Jacksonville State: This will be the 15th meeting between the two schools, with Alabama having won the previous 14 meetings. The Crimson Tide won last year 6-0, on the strength of Kelsi Dunne’s third career no hitter against the Gamecocks. Senior Jazlyn Lunceford paces UA against JSU with a .667 lifetime average (2-for-3), adding two runs, two stolen bases and two RBI. Jennifer Fenton bats .500 against the Gamecocks with three runs scored, a triple and two RBI. Cassie Reilly-Boccia has accumulated the most at-bats, posting a .444 average (4-for-9) with two doubles and two RBI.

Alabama enters the season 10-5 in opening day games and has won six of its last seven season openers. Over that span the Tide has outscored its opponents, 59-5, posting five run-rule wins. Last season the Crimson Tide blitzed Samford, 8-0, in five innings. Jackie Traina struck out five and hit a two-run homer in her collegiate debut. The Tide smacked an opening day school record four home runs in the win as Jennifer Fenton batted 3-for-3 with a home run and three RBI. The last opening day loss for Alabama came in 2010 when it fell to No. 9 Missouri, 2-1, in a tight pitching duel between Kelsi Dunne and Chelsea Thomas.

Alabama enters the season with one of the most experienced squads in the country. The Crimson Tide boasts six seniors that have combined to find time in 915 games and start 708 times. Five of the six seniors have started more than 100 games in their careers. Cassie Reilly-Boccia leads the senior class with 189 games played and 179 starts.

Cassie Reilly-Boccia 189 179
Jennifer Fenton 178 132
Jazlyn Lunceford 173 117
Amanda Locke 163 148
Kendall Dawson 142 108
Olivia Gibson 70 24

Alabama will be tested all season long as it enters the 2012 season with a schedule that features nine teams that are ranked in the preseason polls and 19 teams that made the postseason in 2011, including three whom made trips to the Women’s College World Series. Alabama will need to start fast as its first 11 opponents all won more than 30 games a year ago.

Alabama junior outfielder Kayla Braud and sophomore utility player Jackie Traina have been selected for the “Watch List” for the 2012 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award by Amateur Softball Association of America.

The Alabama softball team garnered four selections as the Southeastern Conference unveiled its fifth annual Preseason All-SEC team. Those selected to the team were seniors Cassie Reilly-Boccia and Amanda Locke, junior Kayla Braud and sophomore Jackie Traina.

The Alabama softball team is predicted to win the Southeastern Conference Western Division, as voted upon by the conference coaches, the league office announced. Florida was selected to win the conference with six first place votes while Tennessee was close behind with five first place votes.

The Alabama softball team came in near the top of both the Softball and the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 polls. The Crimson Tide checks in at No. 2 on the Softball poll and was ranked third by the USA Today/NFCA poll.

Alabama will continue tournament play on the road as it will face a tough test at the SEC/ACC Big XII Challenge in Auburn, Ala. UA will face Women’s College World Series participants Oklahoma and Oklahoma State while also playing NCAA powers Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. The Tide will open play on the Plains on Friday, Feb. 17, at 5:30 p.m., against No. 23 Georgia Tech.