Softball to Host Easton Bama Bash This Weekend

Feb. 20, 2014

Alabama (8-2) will play at home for the first time this season, hosting the Easton Bama Bash, presented by Drash. The Crimson Tide will open against Virginia Tech (4 p.m.) and UCF (6 p.m.) on Friday, Feb. 21. On Saturday, Feb. 22, Alabama will play Virginia Tech (1:30 p.m.) and UCF (4 p.m.) before capping its weekend against McNeese (1:30 p.m.) on Sunday, Feb. 23.

Friday, Feb. 21 vs. Virginia Tech/UCF - 95.3 FM
Saturday, Feb. 22 vs. Virginia Tech - 95.3 FM
Saturday, Feb. 22 vs. UCF - 790 AM
Sunday, Feb. 23 vs. McNeese - 95.3 FM

All Weekend: Schedule card and poster giveaways
Saturday: Ryan Iamurri Senior Day, Softball Bingo during Alabama vs. UCF
Sunday: Kids Day - Free hot dog, drink and Alabama eye-black for first 200 kids ages 12 and under. Kids ages 12 and under get to run the bases and receive postgame autographs. Big Al will be in attendance. Military Appreciation - Free admission Sunday for military members with a valid ID

Virginia Tech (5-2, 0-0 ACC) - The Hokies improved to 5-2 this season with a pair of wins in a Tuesday doubleheader against UNCG, defeating the Spartans 12-4 and 4-0. The team is led by a pair of quality sophomore pitchers, with Maggie Tyler owning a 1.67 ERA over 21.0 innings with 21 strikeouts, while Kelly Heinz has a 2.24 ERA over 25.0 innings with 24 strikeouts. Freshman Vanessa Gonzalez has impressed in her debut season, leading the team with a .444 average and .583 on-base percentage.

UCF (7-1, 0-0 AAC) - The Knights are off to the best start in program history, winning its first seven games before falling to No. 10 Florida State, 6-1, on Wednesday. With no seniors on the roster, the young squad has edged out some close victories, thanks in large part to a pitching staff that owns a 1.53 team ERA and 63 strikeouts over 55.0 innings. Freshman Linnea Goodman (.412) and junior Kahley Novak (.348) lead the offense with a combined 15 hits and four RBI.

McNeese (7-5, 0-0 Southland) - The Cowgirls improved to 7-5 by sweeping a Wednesday doubleheader over Stephen F. Austin, 9-5 and 8-0. The team scored a big win in last weekend’s Texas A&M Aggie Classic, defeating then-No. 8 Texas A&M, 4-2. McNeese has four regular starters hitting above .300, led by junior Lauren Langner at .439 with 18 hits, including seven extra-base hits and seven RBI. Sophomore pitcher Jamie Allred (4-2, 2.65 ERA) has seen the most time in the circle, throwing 41 strikeouts over 39.2 innings pitched.

Virginia Tech - This will be the third meeting between the two schools, with Alabama winning both previous games. The last time the two teams met was on Feb. 18, 2012 at the ACC/Big 12/SEC Challenge at Auburn University, where the Crimson Tide won 7-3 thanks in part to a three-RBI day by Cassie Reilly-Boccia.

UCF - This will be just the second time the Tide and the Knights have met in program history. UCF holds the lone victory in the all-time series, defeating Alabama 3-2 at the NFCA Leadoff Classic on Feb. 28, 2010 in Columbus, Ga. Alabama had the potential game-tying run in scoring position in the top of the 7th with one out, but a strikeout and a groundout ended the game.

McNeese - Alabama holds a 2-0 lead over McNeese in the all-time series. The two teams last met on Feb. 13, 2008, where the Tide scored a school-record 21 runs in a 21-1 drubbing of the Cowgirls, led by Charlotte Morgan’s school-record eight RBI off two doubles and a grand slam. The lopsided win was also Patrick Murphy’s 500th career win.

Alabama won its first three games in Tucson, Ariz., by a combined score of 34-6, but was shut out in its final two contests against Arizona, 3-0 and 8-0. The Tide defeated Grand Canyon in the weekend opener, 13-5, behind four home runs that accounted for all but one of the 13 runs scored. Alabama made quick work of Tennessee State in the next game, shutting out the Tigers 12-0 in five innings. Alabama earned its second-straight five inning win with a 9-1 victory over New Mexico on Saturday, but suffered its first loss of the season that night against then-No. 24 Arizona, 3-0. The Tide fell behind early in Sunday’s matchup against the Wildcats, ultimately falling 8-0 in its first run-rule loss since the 2011 Women’s College World Series.

Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy is approaching yet another milestone in his storied career at the helm of the Crimson Tide. With a 797-215 (.789) record in his 16th season, he is only three wins shy of his 800th at Alabama. Through week two, only 14 active Division-I head coaches own at least 800 wins at their current school:
- Mike Candrea, Arizona (1,352 - 27th season)
- Carol Hutchins, Michigan (1,309 - 30th season)
- Eugene Lenti, DePaul (1,177 - 33rd season)
- Diane Ninemire, Cal (1,160 - 27th season)
- Margo Jonker, Central Michigan (1,121 - 35th season)
- Patty Gasso, Oklahoma (934 - 20th season)
- Melinda Fischer, Illinois State (912 - 29th season)
- Bill Edwards, Hofstra (894 - 25th season)
- Sandy Montgomery, SIUE (885 - 26th season)
- Lana Richmond, SEMO (876 - 31st season)
- Karen Mullins, UConn (849 - 31st season)
- Bob Coolen, Hawaii (850 - 23rd season)
- Mike Rappl, Canisius (815 - 35th season)
- Rhonda Revelle, Nebraska (806 - 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).

The Alabama lineup has had plenty of success with its power numbers, though the usual suspects haven’t been the main source. Danae Hays currently leads the team and is tied for second in the SEC with five home runs after only hitting a combined seven home runs during her freshman and sophomore seasons. Molly Fichtner hit three home runs in 2013, but managed to send the ball over the fence in her first at-bat of 2014, a pinch-hit homer against Northwestern State (Feb. 8). At the Hillenbrand Invitational, a pair of sophomores hit their first career home runs with Andrea Hawkins against Grand Canyon (Feb. 14) and Kallie Case against New Mexico (Feb. 15). Hays, Fichtner, Hawkins and Case account for eight of the team’s 13 home runs after hitting just five all last season.

Against all odds, regression hasn’t caught up with sophomore Haylie McCleney yet, as she is continuing to improve off of what was already a stellar breakout freshman season. So far this season, she has 15 hits in 24 at-bats, owning a conference-leading .625 average as the only SEC player hitting above .600. She also leads the conference with a .743 on-base percentage and is second in slugging percentage at 1.208, just 88 points shy of Kentucky’s Griffin Joiner. The latter two stats give her a whopping 1.951 OPS this season, beating out Joiner’s 1.935.

Alabama senior Kaila Hunt was selected as one of 30 Division-I senior softball players on the initial candidate list for the 2014 Senior CLASS Award. The CLASS award, an acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School, celebrates student-athletes that excel on and off the field. Hunt is one of 13 on the list with a cumulative GPA higher than 3.5, one of nine to earn NFCA All-America honors in 2013 and just one of four to earn CoSIDA Capital One Academic All-America honors in 2013. Last season, she became just the sixth player in Alabama history to earn NFCA All-American and CoSIDA Academic All-American honors in the same season.

Alabama suffered its first two losses of the season last weekend but was able to hold on to a top-ten ranking in both the USA Today/NFCA poll and Softball poll, where the Crimson Tide is ranked ninth and seventh, respectively. Alabama was ranked No. 4 in last week’s USA Today/NFCA poll, but a pair of losses to then-No. 24 Arizona over the weekend dropped the Tide down five spots. Arizona made the largest jump in the rankings of any team, moving all the way to No. 14. In the SEC, Florida jumped ahead of Tennessee as the new No. 1 with the Lady Vols trailing close behind at the No. 2 spot. Undefeated Kentucky moved up two spots to a No. 5 ranking. The Tide only fell one spot in the Softball poll, moving from sixth to seventh. Florida holds the top spot for the second-straight week while Tennessee fell to No. 3 in favor of undefeated Washington at the No. 2 spot.

On Tuesday, Feb. 25, Alabama will head to Birmingham for a 6 p.m. CT game against UAB (3-7). The following weekend, the Tide returns home to host the Easton Crimson Classic. There, the Tide will play five games over three days, beginning with Purdue (4-4-1) on Friday, Feb. 28 4 p.m. CT. Houston and No. 10 Florida State will also compete at the Crimson Classic.