March 20, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The top-ranked Alabama softball team (25-0, 6-0 SEC) looks to continue its perfect start to the 2012 season as it hosts No. 12 Tennessee (19-6, 3-3 SEC) in a Southeastern Conference doubleheader, starting at 4 p.m., at Rhoads Stadium on Wednesday, March 21. The twin-bill will air on CSS with Bernie Guenther and Cheri Kempf calling the action.
LAST TIME OUT
The top-ranked Alabama softball team continued its winning ways as it improved to 25-0 on the season and 6-0 in Southeastern Conference play on the strength of a 4-0 week. Alabama ventured across the country to down No. 14 Oregon, 5-1, on Tuesday before returning to Tuscaloosa after a weeklong road trip to host Mississippi. The Tide swept the Rebels in its first SEC home series of the season, opening the three-game set with a 12-2, run-rule victory Friday night. UA downed UM, 10-7, Saturday night, before using the mercy rule once again in a 12-1 thumping, Sunday afternoon. The 25-0 start equals the second best start in school history as the Crimson Tide rattled off 25 wins to start the season in 2007. Alabama has now scored eight or more runs 16 times this season and plated 10 or more eight times. UA earned its 23rd straight win over Mississippi and has put double-digits on the board five straight times against the division foe. Alabama outscored its opponents, 39-11, on the week. Alabama batted .368 on the week and hit seven home runs with 34 RBI. The Tide pitchers sported a 2.33 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 24 innings while holding the opposition to just a .178 batting average.
WHO TO WATCH
Alabama senior Jennifer Fenton did it all from the number two spot in the lineup, adding power and speed to the potent Crimson Tide lineup en route to earning SEC Player of the Week honors. Fenton paced Bama at the plate with a .600 (6-for-10) average, scoring a team-high seven runs and swiping a team-best five bases. She also added a home run, four RBI and a .692 on base percentage. She also slugged .900 and had an assist and made no errors in centerfield. The senior had two multi-hit games and two multi-RBI contests during the week, stealing at least one base in three of the four contests. After collecting a hit and scoring a run at No. 14 Oregon, she scored twice and drove in two while also stealing two bases in the series opener against Mississippi. In game two Fenton batted a perfect 3-for-3 with two RBI, a home run and a stolen base. In the series finale, Fenton reached base twice, scored twice and stole two bases.
Tennessee enters the matchup with a 19-6 record overall, 3-3 mark in SEC play. The Lady Vols won two out of three games this past weekend against the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Ark. UT knocked off Arkansas, 8-0, in five innings in game one, but suffered a 4-1 setback in their second game. On Sunday, the Lady Vols bounced back to win the rubber match, 2-0. Tennessee is led by junior outfielder/third baseman Raven Chavanne with a .464 (26-for-56) batting average and a perfect 10-for-10 clip in stolen bases. Sophomore infielder Madison Shipman leads the team with 26 runs batted in to go along with her .357 (30-for-84) batting average, while junior infielder Lauren Gibson leads the Lady Vols with eight home runs and 22 RBI. In the circle, UT is led by the Renfroe sisters. Sophomore Ellen Renfroe was named SEC Freshman of the Year last season, and has continued that success this year. She enters the weekend with a 14-1 record and a 0.99 ERA, with an SEC leading 152 strikeouts in 112 2/3 innings of work. Junior Ivy Renfroe enters the series with a 5-5 record with 54 strikeouts in 53 1/3 innings of work. UT returned 15 letter-winners from last season's SEC Tournament championship team. They are led by co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly, who have coached at UT for 12 seasons and have posted a 533-168-2 record in Knoxville.
The Tide and Lady Vols have faced off 45 times, with UA holding a 30-15 advantage in the series. Last season, the teams split a doubleheader in Knoxville, with the Tide winning the first game, 9-5, and losing the nightcap 4-1. Kelsi Dunne earned her 98th victory for the Tide in the first game, which moved her second all-time in wins in school history, while Cassie Reilly-Boccia drove in two runs on two hits for the Tide to lead the way. In Game 2, Ellen Renfroe out-dueled Jackie Traina, as she allowed just one run on two hits to deal Traina her first collegiate loss. The Tide sports a 15-4 advantage all-time in Tuscaloosa and has won six of the last seven games overall. Individually, seniors Kendall Dawson, Jennifer Fenton and Jazlyn Lunceford have had the most lifetime success. Dawson is hitting .500 (5-for-10) with five runs, three doubles, a home run and three RBI against UT. Fenton follows with a .455 (5-for-11) average and five RBI while Lunceford has chipped in a .444 (4-for-9) mark with a home run, four runs and two stolen bases.
FENTON AND TRAINA EARN SEC WEEKLY HONORS
Alabama senior outfielder Jennifer Fenton (Kennesaw, Ga.) and sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina (Naples, Fla.) garnered Southeastern Conference softball weekly honors, the league office announced Monday afternoon. Fenton was named the SEC Player of the Week while Traina was named the Pitcher of the Week. The honor is a career first for Fenton while Traina nabbed the accolade in the circle for the second time. This marks the first time since Dani Woods and Stephanie VanBrakle on March 27, 2006, that two Crimson Tide players have earned both honors in the same week
Alabama has raced out to a 25-0 start and has been doing it in impressive fashion. The Tide has outscored its opponents 211-52, including a 49-7 advantage in the first inning. UA is averaging 8.44 runs per game and 9.36 hits per contest. Kayla Braud and Jennifer Fenton are averaging over a run per game while Amanda Lock and Kaila Hunt are driving in a run per game. In the circle Jackie Traina is averaging 10 strikeouts per contest.
Alabama put together one of its most successful seasons in front of the home faithful in 2011, posting a 25-1 record at Rhoads Stadium, with the only loss coming in the first game of the Super Regional against Stanford. UA has won 25 or more games at Rhoads Stadium, 11 times and 30 or more six times. The Tide finished 31-1 in 2009 and put together its most wins in 2007 with a 39-3 record. Overall Alabama has posted a 353-52 record at Rhoads Stadium and a 408-72 record in Tuscaloosa. So far this season Alabama is a perfect 13-0 at the friendly confines.
Alabama has historically gotten off to fast starts and the 2012 campaign is no different as the Tide enters the week with a perfect 25-0 record. UA has started the season better than 5-0, eight times and has gotten off to at least a 10-0 start, eight times. The Tide has eclipsed the 20-win plateau three times, setting a school record with a 27-0 start in 2001. UA started 25-0 in 2007. Last year the Tide raced out to a 17-0 start.
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 1043 games and start 822 times. Five of the six seniors have started more than 100 games in their careers. Cassie Reilly-Boccia leads the senior class with 214 games played and 202 starts.
Alabama senior Cassie Reilly-Boccia is rapidly climbing up the career record charts. Reilly-Boccia currently ranks third all-time in walk with 150. Kelly Kretschman holds the UA record with 161 free passes. Despite being just a junior, Kayla Braud is also ascending up the charts. Braud has swiped 123 career bases to rank third all time. Brittany Rogers holds the mark with 198 stolen bases. Senior Jennifer Fenton checks in at fifth all-time with 105 stolen bases. Senior Amanda Locke is powering her way into the home run record book as she ranks fourth all-time with 43 career home runs. Kretschman holds the record with 60 career roundtrippers. Kendall Dawson is one caught theft away from holding the Alabama record for most caught stealing by. She is tied with Lacy Prejean with 39 over her career.
NUMBER ONE RANKING
Alabama was once again tabbed the number one team in the country, as noted by the USA Today/NFCA poll and has now seized the top spot in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. The Crimson Tide has held the number one ranking at some point during the regular season in five of the last six seasons. The streak started in 2007 and despite not being ranked number one in 2010, Alabama was selected as the number one national seed in the NCAA tournament. UA has held the top ranking this season for four consecutive weeks.
SEC TEAM STATS
As a team, UA leads the conference with a .360 (234-for-650) batting average, as well as in runs (211), stolen bases (61), and home runs (40). The Tide is second in doubles (44) and third in triples (7) and walks (115).
SEC INDIVIDUAL STATS
Kayla Braud is third in the conference with a .439 (29-for-66) batting average. Cassie Reilly-Boccia is ninth with a .400 (22-for-55) average. Jennifer Fenton is fifth in the SEC with 27 runs scored, while Kaila Hunt is fifth with 27 runs batted in. Braud leads the conference with 20 stolen bases as well. In the circle, Jackie Traina leads the conference with 15 wins. She is sixth with a 1.08 ERA, and is second with 120 strikeouts.
NCAA TEAM RANKS
As a team, the Tide ranks in the top 10 nationally in several categories. Alabama leads the country in slugging percentage (.634) and is tied for first with Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisville with a perfect record. UA is second in the country with a .360 batting average, as well as second in home runs per game (1.6). Alabama is sixth in doubles per game (1.76), as well as eighth in stolen bases per game (2.4).
NCAA INDIVIDUAL RANKS
The Crimson Tide also has players ranked in several categories nationally as well. Sophomore Kaila Hunt is 20th nationally in home runs per game (.33), 27th in home runs (8), as well as 29th in runs batted in per game (1.13). Junior Kayla Braud is sixth in stolen bases per game (.79), while senior Jennifer Fenton is 15th in the same category (.67). Senior Cassie Reilly-Boccia is 10th in the country in on base percentage (.570), followed closely by sophomore Jackie Traina (.566) and Braud (.549). Fenton ranks 17th in runs per game (1.13). In the pitching circle, Traina is second with 15 victories, ninth in strikeouts per seven innings (10.0), 20th in overall strikeout (120), and 29th in ERA (1.08).
NEXT TIME OUT
Alabama will take a break from conference play to host DePaul and Longwood in Tuscaloosa for the Easton Alabama Challenge, held from March 23-25 at Rhoads Stadium.