Top Ranked Softball Showdown Set for this Weekend

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Sophomore Kayla Braud leads the team in six offensive categories.
Sophomore Kayla Braud leads the team in six offensive categories.

March 17, 2011

Games 28-30 |  No. 2 Alabama (26-1, 2-0 SEC) vs. No. 1 Georgia (23-1, 5-0 SEC)
 Date Friday, March 18 | 6:30 p.m. CDT
Saturday, March 19 | 7 p.m. CDT
Sunday, March 20 | 1:30 p.m. CDT
 Location Tuscaloosa, Ala. | Rhoads Stadium (3,395)
 Tickets Brickyard General Admission $5 | Purchase Online
 Television ESPNU (Mark Neely and Michele Smith) | Saturday
 Radio WVUA-FM 90.7 - Tuscaloosa (Chad Haynie) | Listen Live
 Live Stats GameTracker (Fri.) | GameTracker (Sat.) | GameTracker (Sun.)
 Streaming Video Tide TV (Friday) | TideTV (Sunday)
 Game Notes Alabama Notes |Georgia Notes
 All-Time Series Alabama leads, 28-12

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The No. 2-ranked Alabama softball team (26-1) will play in its first Southeastern Conference weekend series of the season as it will host No. 1 Georgia (23-1). The two teams will square off in a three-game series, starting under the lights on Friday, March 18, at 6:30 p.m. CDT. The Saturday contest will air live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. Mark Neely and Michele Smith will call the action at Rhoads Stadium. The series will come to a close in a Sunday matinee at 1:30 p.m.

The No. 2-ranked Alabama softball team opened SEC play in impressive fashion as it swept a doubleheader from its rival, No. 24 Auburn Wednesday at Rhoads Stadium. The Crimson Tide combined to outscore the Tigers 14-3, as it finished with its 14th and 15th straight wins over AU. Alabama claimed game one, 6-1 and then earned the sweep with an 8-2 victory in the nightcap. Senior Kelsi Dunne eclipsed the 1,000 strikeout plateau when she struck out Kelsey Cartwright in the first inning. Dunne fanned 14 to improve to 11-1 on the year. In game two, freshman Jackie Traina struck out nine and hit a two-run homer to lead Alabama to the win. The rookie now has 12 home runs on the season and is a perfect 11-0 in the circle.

Sophomore Kayla Braud enters the weekend leading Alabama at the plate with a .537 average. Overall the sophomore paces the Tide in six offensive categories, including hits (44), runs (37), walks (16), on-base percentage (.614) and stolen bases (37). The Eugene, Ore., native has also reached base in 46 straight games, dating back to the end of last season. Over the last six games, junior Cassie Reilly-Boccia is batting .500 (7-for-14) with three home runs and a team-best 12 RBI. Since her only loss on the season on March 4, senior Kelsi Dunne is 4-0 in the circle with 46 strikeouts in 26 innings. She sports a 0.27 ERA over that span while opponents are hitting a meager .106 against the right-hander.

The Bulldogs enter the weekend as the No. 1 team in the country, earning the top ranking earlier this season for the first time in school history. The only blemish for Georgia this season is a 1-0 loss to Oklahoma State at the Cathedral Classic. As a team, the Bulldogs are hitting .338 with 38 home runs and 151 RBI. In the circle, UGA is pitching at a 1.41 clip and have struck out 172 batters in 149 innings. Opponents are hitting just .181 and have been tagged for a 7.49 ERA. Individually, Megan Wiggins leads the team with a .461 average, six home runs and 30 RBI. Alisa Goler set the Georgia career home run record as she belted two home runs in the doubleheader against South Carolina to move her total to 47. She enters the weekend with a .339 average, six home runs and 18 RBI. Brianna Hesson has also provided some punch as she sports a .339 average, six home runs and 26 RBI. In the circle, Alison Owen leads the team with a 0.75 ERA. She is 8-0 with 59 strikeouts in 46.2 innings. Newcomer Morgan Montemayor is 10-1 with a 1.63 ERA. The rookie has fanned 62 in 55.2 innings. Georgia returns 17 players from a team that finished 50-13 and made the final four at the 2010 Women's College World Series.

Georgia: Alabama holds a 28-12 all-time series advantage over Georgia and is 14-5 against the Bulldogs at home. Alabama has never lost a home series to Georgia. The last loss against UGA in Tuscaloosa came in a 2-1, nine-inning affair on March 31, 2007. Alabama has only dropped two series against Georgia, its last coming in Athens in 2005. Last year in Athens, Georgia opened the series with a 3-0 win but Alabama rallied to secure the series with a pair of victories by the scores of 8-5 and 13-4, respectively. Kayla Braud and Cassie Reilly-Boccia batted .500 in the series while Whitney Larsen batted .333 with a home run and five RBI. Reilly-Boccia leads the charge against UGA over her career as she is batting .500 (5-for-10) with a home run, four RBI and eight walks to just one strikeout.

Alabama once again faces a tough schedule as the Crimson Tide has already played 19 games against teams that participated in the 2010 NCAA tournament. The Crimson Tide sports an 18-1 record in those games in 2011 with its only loss coming against No. 17 Louisiana-Lafayette (1-0, March 4). The Tide has outscored those opponents 132-25 and is hitting .307 with 29 home runs and 120 RBI. In the circle, Alabama is pitching at a 1.10 clip and holding those teams to a .159 batting average. Sophomore Kayla Braud leads the team with a .500 average and has scored 22 runs and swiped 21 bases. Freshman Jackie Traina is batting .381 with seven home runs and 21 RBI. Cassie Reilly-Boccia paces the team with 24 RBI while adding a .367 average with five home runs. In the circle, senior Kelsi Dunne is 10-1 with a 0.52 ERA. She has struck out 114 in 67 innings.

Alabama senior pitcher Kelsi Dunne (Port Orange, Fla.) was named the SEC Pitcher of the Week, as announced by the league office Monday. The award is the first of the season for the All-American and the seventh conference weekly honor of her career. Dunne continued to baffle opposing hitters this past weekend. In her two outings, she only allowed a total of two hits to earn two wins. Dunne tossed 12 innings and posted a perfect 0.00 ERA while striking out 21 and holding the opposition to just a .053 batting average.

Alabama Softball fans continue to take the moniker "best softball fans in the nation" to heart setting two new attendance records in the midweek match up against rival Auburn earlier this week. The Crimson Tide set a new regular season NCAA single day attendance record with a combined doubleheader crowd of 6,259 fans packing Rhoads Stadium to watch the Tide take two from Auburn. Game two of the twinbill also set a new Alabama record for largest single-game crowd at 3,256. Rhoads Stadium also owns national attendance records in both the NCAA Regional and Super Regional with only Women's College World Series sessions at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium surpassing Rhoads Stadium attendance marks.

The Alabama softball team is off to a hot start to the 2011 campaign and it has shown on the stat sheet. The Crimson Tide has already smashed 53 home runs, 27 games into the season. The most ever hit by an Alabama team 27 games into the season was 39, in 2010. The Tide is hitting at a .353 clip which is also the best start at the plate, bettering the average of .339 set in 2008 and 2001. The 211 RBI is also the most through 27 games, as the Tide drove in 167 in 2008. Individually, freshman Jackie Traina is off to the best power start in school history as she has smacked 12 home runs and drove in 35 RBI. The closest ever to start a season was 10 home runs by Kelly Kretschman in 1998 and 29 RBI by Mandy Burford in 2007. Junior Cassie Reilly-Boccia enters the weekend with 31 RBI as well. Sophomore Kayla Braud sports a .537 average which is the best start as Brittany Rogers batted .511 in 2008. Braud has swiped 37 bases already which is the best start on the base paths in school history. Overall the 26-1 record is the second best start in school history as Alabama started off the 2001 season 27-0 record. The Tide started the 2007 season, 26-1.

Alabama senior pitcher Kelsi Dunne became just the third pitcher in school history to reach the 1,000 strikeout plateau as she passed the mark Wednesday against Auburn. The senior struck out Kelsey Cartwright in the first inning to reach the mark and now enters the weekend with 1,013 career punchouts. Next on the list for the right-hander is Shelley Laird (1,045) and record-holder Stephanie VanBrakle (1,113). Dunne also enters the weekend nearing 100 wins as she sports 95 on her career, which is just two shy of second place in the Alabama annals, behind the 97 by VanBrakle. Laird holds the record with 115.

Alabama sophomore Kayla Braud may have seen her 28-game hitting streak come to an end but she has strung together another streak. Braud has reached base in 46 straight games dating back to 2010. The All-American capped off her 2010 season with a 19-game streak and has reached base in all 27 games this season. The Alabama record is 48, held by Kelly Kretschman. The former Olympian reached base in 48 straight games during the 1998 season. Junior Cassie Reilly-Boccia had the longest streak as of late, as she reached base in 35 straight games, over the course of the 2009 and 2010 seasons. 

With the hot start at the plate to the 2011 campaign, the Crimson Tide leads the Southeastern Conference in numerous statistical categories. Offensively, the Tide leads the circuit in: slugging percentage (.661), home runs (53), doubles (44) and stolen bases (83). The team ranks second in runs (227), RBI (211), total bases (453), walks (104) and third in on-base percentage (.457) and hits (242). In the circle, the Tide rank second in ERA (1.14), opposing batting average (.161) and leads the circuit in strikeouts (238) and hits allowed (94).

Numerous Alabama individuals currently pace the league in several categories. Kayla Braud (.537) and Jackie Traina (.435) are in the top 10 in batting average as Braud leads the league and Traina checks in at ninth. Braud sits atop the conference in on-base percentage (.614), runs (37) and stolen bases (37) and is second in hits (44). Traina is the leader in slugging percentage (1.048) and home runs (12), and ranks third in runs batted in (35). In the circle, Kelsi Dunne is first in ERA (0.47), opposing batting average (.102) and batters truck out (125).

Alabama will quickly hit the road for another midweek conference doubleheader as it will head to Knoxville to face Tennessee. The two highly ranked squads will square off on Tuesday, March 22, in a twinbill that will begin at 3 p.m. CDT at Lee Stadium.