Feb. 13, 2014
Alabama softball continues its season out west at the Hillenbrand Invitational in Tucscon, Ariz., hosted by the University of Arizona. There, the Crimson Tide will play five games over three days. On Friday, Feb. 14, Alabama opens against Grand Canyon at 2 p.m. CT before returning that night to play Tennessee State at 7 p.m. CT. On Saturday, Feb. 15, the Tide plays New Mexico at 2 p.m. CT before playing No. 24 Arizona at 7 p.m. CT. Alabama wraps up the weekend with a second game against the Wildcats on Sunday, Feb. 16 at Noon CT.
THE TIDE ON THE AIR
Fans can listen to all home and away games this season on Alabama Softball's new flasgship station, FM 95.3 The Bear. A free online live stream will also be available at http://953thebear.com/listen-live/ or through the mobile radioPup app. There will be a free live video stream for this weekend's games, with a link available on the softball schedule page at rolltide.com.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
Grand Canyon (2-3, 0-0 WAC) -The Antelopes started their first-ever Division-I season with two wins last weekend at the Red Dirt Classic in St. George, Utah, defeating Utah State and Southern Utah. Grand Canyon's final D-II season saw them finish second in their region and 17th overall. Junior Kayla Henry is the team's leading returner on offense, hitting .416 with a team-leading 49 runs and 91 hits last season. Senior Stephani Pesqueira has made the most appearanes in the circle for the `Lopes, with a 1-2 record and 3.50 ERA over 12.0 innings.
Tennessee State (1-3, 0-0 OVC) -The Tigers started their season with a win against East Tennessee State at the Music City Classic, but fell in the remaining three games over the weekend. The team has struggled out of the gate, hitting .185 as a team with a 5.04 ERA. Junior Kate Morris leads the team with a .333 average (3-9) including a double, home run and three RBI. Junior Shea Morris owns the team's lone win in the circle, though her weekend ERA ballooned to 6.22 thanks to eight earned runs over 9.0 innings.
New Mexico (1-4, 0-0 MWC) -The Lobos went 1-4 over a very tough opening weekend at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., as two of their losses came against ranked Arizona State and Cal teams. Their lone win came in an 11-10 decision over UC-Riverside. With a 1-1 record, junior Carrie Sheehan has seen the most time in the circle for New Mexico, though she owns a 7.88 ERA over 13.1 innings. Sophomore Naomi Tellez owns a .636 average (7-11) through five games, including a double, triple and three RBI.
No. 24 Arizona (5-0, 0-0 PAC-12) -The Wildcats, one of the most storied programs in NCAA history, is coming off their worst postseason finish since 1987, falling in the 2013 College Station Regional round. After a 33-26 finish last season, Arizona is off to a strong start in 2014 with three wins and a .514 team average and a 0.93 team ERA. Sophomore Courtney Rodriguez is the early leader in the lineup with an .857 average (6-7) and two doubles. The pitching staff has only allowed two earned runs over 15.0 innings.
Grand Canyon -This will be the first meeting between the two schools. The Antelopes are entering their first season in Division-I, having competed in D-II since 2004. They made three appearances in the NCAA Division-II Tournament (2010, 2012, 2013), owning a 3-6 overall postseason record. Alabama is 11-2 all-time against opponents in the Western Athletic Conference.
Tennessee State -This will be the first-ever meeting betwee the two schools. The Tennessee State program was created in 1994 and they have been a member of the Ohio Valley Conference ever since. The Tigers' all-time record is 224-723, including just 89 OVC wins. Alabama is 24-1 all-time against OVC members.
New Mexico -Alabama has faced New Mexico twice in program history, winning both contests. The first meeting came in 1998, where the Tide defeated the Lobos 5-0 at the Georgia Tech Buzz Classic. The teams would not meet again until ten years later, when New Mexico traveled to Tuscaloosa in 2008 for the Hamption Inn Crimson Classic. Alabama won 10-2 in 5.0 innings thanks to a 4-4 day at the plate from Brittany Rogers and a two-hitter in the circle by Chrissy Owens.
Arizona -Alabama and Arizona have met 12 times, with the Wildcats holding a 10-2 edge in the all-time series. Arizona won the first 10 meetings between the teams, including in the 2003 Women's College World Series. With Arizona coming off back-to-back national titles, Alabama earned its first-ever win over the Wildcats on the big stage, defeating the defending champions 5-1 in the 2008 Women's College World Series. Alabama earned a second win over Arizona in the 2009 Women's College World Series, 14-0 in five innings. This weekend will be the first time Alabama has played in Tucson since 2002.
LAST TIME OUT: TROY SUBWAY INVITATIONAL
Alabama swept through its opening weekend at the Troy Subway Invitational, finishing the weekend 5-0 while outscoring its opponents 48-3. The Tide defeated Kennesaw State, North Florida, Northwestern State, Middle Tennessee and Troy. Junior pitcher Leslie Jury was named the Troy Subway Invitational MVP, going 2-0 on the young season thanks to a pair of two-hit shutouts. Haylie McCleney and Danae Hays were named to the All-Tournament team, with McCleney (.571/.684/1.071) earning eight hits and eight RBI while Hays (.444/.500/.1.556) surpassed her entire 2013 season home run total with three over the weekend, including a grand slam against Kennesaw State.
ONE CHANCE TO MAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION
Alabama made the most of its first day of the 2014 season, defeating Kennesaw State and North Florida by a combined score of 16-1. The 16 runs scored is the fourth-most ever scored by the Crimson Tide on opening day. The Tide scored 17 runs on opening day in 2000, 19 in 2009 and 22 in 2007. It's the second-straight season Alabama has scored at least 15 runs on opening day.
Alabama's big 16-0 win over Northwestern State came in large part due to great extra-base hitting. It is only the sixth time in school history Alabama has hit at least six doubles in a game, the first time since hitting six against Lipscomb on Feb. 11, 2012. It is also the the first time the Tide has hit two triples in a game since March 16, 2012 against Ole Miss.
PACKING THE HOUSE
Alabama and Arizona are consistently among the top programs in regards to attendance, year-in and year-out. Arizona has drawn over 3,000 fans four times, most recently in 2004 when the US National Team competed there. Alabama set a single-season attendance record last season, welcoming 93,332 fans including a school-record 4,002 for the April 20 game against Mississippi State.
SOFTBALL JUMPS TO FOURTH IN LATEST USA TODAY/NFCA POLL
After starting the season 5-0, Alabama softball moved up two spots to earn a No. 4 ranking in the latest USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Poll.
Tennessee (4-0) holds firm on the No. 1 overall spot, earning 19 first-place votes, while Florida (6-0) jumped two spots to No. 2 overall with 11 first-place votes. Washington (5-0) earned the remaining two first-place votes and is ranked third. Alabama (5-0), Arizona State (6-0), Michigan (3-1), Kentucky (5-0), Texas A&M (5-0), Nebraska (3-1) and Oregon (4-1) round out rest of the top 10.
Alabama maintained its No. 6 ranking in the latest ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25. Florida is the new No. 1 team, edging out Tennessee by just one point, though the Lady Vols still earned the most first-place votes with 11.
Patrick Murphy APPROACHING 800 WINS AT ALABAMA (UPDATED)
Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy is approaching yet another milestone in his storied career at the helm of the Crimson Tide. With a 794-213 (.787) record in his 16th season, he is only six wins shy of his 800th at Alabama. Through week one, only 13 active Division-I head coaches own at least 800 wins at their current school:
- Mike Candrea, Arizona (1,346 - 27th season)
- Carol Hutchins, Michigan (1,305 - 30th season)
- Eugene Lenti, DePaul (1,173 - 33rd season)
- Diane Ninemire, Cal (1,158 - 27th season)
- Margo Jonker, Central Michigan (1,119 - 35th season)
- Patty Gasso, Oklahoma (931 - 20th season)
- Melinda Fischer, Illinois State (910 - 29th season)
- Bill Edwards, Hofstra (894 - 25th season)
- Sandy Montgomery, SIUE (884 - 26th season)
- Lana Richmond, SEMO (873 - 31st season)
- Karen Mullins, UConn (849 - 31st season)
- Bob Coolen, Hawaii (846 - 23rd season)
- Mike Rappl, Canisius (815 - 35th season)
- Rhonda Revelle, Nebraska (802 - 22nd season)
Compared to those 14 other coaches, Murphy has a higher average wins-per-season (52.60) than any of them. Arizona's Mike Candrea is the only other coach averaging over 50 wins per season (51.65).
NEXT TIME OUT: EASTON BAMA BASH
Next weekend, Alabama hosts its 2014 home opener at the Easton Bama Bash, presented by Drash. The Tide will play five games over three days. On Friday, Feb. 21, Alabama plays Virginia Tech (4 p.m.) and UCF (6 p.m.). On Saturdya, the Tide will play Virginia Tech (1:30 p.m.) and UCF (4 p.m.) again before concluding tournament action on Sunday, Feb. 23 against McNeese State (1:30 p.m.).