Softball Hits the Road to Face Tennessee

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Alabama heads to Knoxville to face Tennessee.
Alabama heads to Knoxville to face Tennessee.

March 21, 2011

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama softball team (29-1, 5-0 SEC) will continue Southeastern Conference play as it will hit the road for the first time during league action to face Tennessee (23-4, 1-2 SEC) in Knoxville. The two teams will play a midweek doubleheader which will begin on Tuesday, March 22 with the first pitch of game one slated for 3 p.m. CDT at Lee Stadium.

The No. 2-ranked Alabama softball team opened its first week of Southeastern Conference play in impressive fashion as the Crimson Tide went a perfect 5-0 on the week. Alabama opened the league portion of its schedule against its rival, No. 24 Auburn, and earned a pair of victories in the doubleheader by the scores of 6-1 and 8-2, respectively. The Tide then played its first weekend series of the conference season and welcomed No. 1 Georgia to Tuscaloosa. Alabama swept the series from the number one team in the country, earning a 2-1 win in the opener and then securing the series with a 6-4 win on Saturday. The Tide closed out the Bulldogs with a 9-5 win on Sunday. Overall Alabama outscored its competition 31-13 on the week and batted .269 with eight home runs and 26 RBI. The Tide pitched at a 2.00 clip and held opposing batters to a .176 batting average.

Individually freshman Kaila Hunt led Alabama at the plate with a .462 average (6-for-13) with a home run, two doubles and two runs scored. Fellow freshman Jackie Traina hit a pair of home runs, including a grand slam with a team-best six RBI. In the circle, the rookie went 2-0, earned her first career save and sported a 1.79 ERA. Sophomore Courtney Conley batted .273 (3-for-11) and equaled Traina with two home runs and six RBI. Sophomore Kayla Braud has now reached base in 49 straight games which breaks the school record of 48 set by Kelly Kretschman in 1998. Braud hit .333 (5-for-15) on the week with two doubles and five runs. Kelsi Dunne eclipsed the 1,000 strikeout mark against Auburn, becoming the third Tide pitcher to do so. She enters the week with 1,029 career strikeouts, nearing the 1,045 mark of Shelley Laird. Dunne also earned her 97th career win which is tied for second with Stephanie VanBrakle in the UA annals.

The Lady Vols enter the week with a 23-4 overall record and a 1-2 mark in conference play. Tennessee is coming off a bye weekend from league play but did host Iowa in a two-game series. UT downed the Hawkeyes 7-3 in the opener and then held onto a 2-0 win in the finale. In the finale on Friday, newcomer Ellen Renfroe struck out 15 and walked none in the shutout win. Overall the Lady Vols are hitting .379 while hitting 34 home runs and 208 RBI. UT is pitching at a 1.86 ERA and is holding its opponents to a .214 average. Individually Kat Dotson leads the team with a .494 average and has powered the team with 10 home runs and 50 RBI. Raven Chavanne closely follows with a .476 average and has added 18 stolen bases and 39 runs scored. In the circle Ellen Renfroe leads the team with a 1.51 ERA and a 13-2 record. She has struck out 122 in 78.2 innings pitched. Her older sister Ivy is 7-2 with a 2.40 ERA and has fanned 58 in 58.1 innings. The Lady Vols return eight starters and two pitchers to a team that finished the 2010 season with a 49-15 overall record and capped it off with a trip to the Women’s College World Series.

Alabama holds a 29-14 all-time series lead over Tennessee, including a 10-7 mark in Knoxville. The two teams last met in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament where the Tide earned a 4-3 win on the strength of a walk-off home run by Whitney Larsen. The senior holds a .318 career batting average against the Lady Vols and has added three home runs and seven RBI. Kendall Dawson sports a .556 average lifetime against UT with a home run and three RBI. In the circle Kelsi Dunne is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA. She has struck out 45 in 32.2 innings. Alabama has won five in a row against Tennessee with its last loss coming in the series finale at home on March 9, 2008. The last loss in Knoxville was on May 6, 2007.

Alabama once again faces a tough schedule as the Crimson Tide has already played 22 games against teams that participated in the 2010 NCAA tournament. The Crimson Tide sports a 21-1 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 149-35 and is hitting .297 with 34 home runs and 136 RBI. In the circle, Alabama is pitching at a 1.33 clip and holding those teams to a .159 batting average. Sophomore Kayla Braud leads the team with a .464 average and has scored 25 runs and swiped 22 bases. Freshman Jackie Traina is batting .353 with eight home runs and 25 RBI. Cassie Reilly-Boccia closely follows with 24 RBI while adding a .333 average with five home runs. In the circle, senior Kelsi Dunne is 12-1 with a 0.88 ERA. She has struck out 130 in 79 1/3 innings.

Alabama holds a 7-1 record against ranked opponents in 2011. The Tide has outscored its ranked opposition 44-15 while hitting .245 with 10 home runs and 36 RBI. In the circle the Tide is pitching at a 1.56 clip and holding opponents to a .162 average. Alabama has now won six in a row against ranked teams, including a sweep of No. 1 Georgia this past weekend. Individually Kayla Braud is batting .364 and scored a team-best nine runs and added four doubles. In the circle, Kelsi Dunne is 5-1 with a 1.46 ERA and has struck out 56 in 38.1 innings.

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 58 home runs, 30 games into the season. The most ever hit by an Alabama team 30 games into the season was 50 in 2010. The Tide is hitting at a .342 clip which is the second best start at the plate, nearing the mark of the .344 mark in 2008. The 227 RBI is also the most through 30 games, as the Tide drove in 200 in 2008. Individually, freshman Jackie Traina is off to the best power start in school history as she has smacked 13 home runs and drove in 39 RBI. The closest ever to start a season was 11 home runs by Kelly Kretschman in 1998 and 37 RBI by Charlotte Morgan in 2008. Sophomore Kayla Braud sports a .505 average which is the best start as Brittany Rogers batted .500 in 2008 and 2009. Braud has swiped 38 bases already which is the best start on the basepaths in school history. Overall the 29-1 record is the best start in school history as Alabama started off the 2007 and 2001 seasons with identical 29-1 records.

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 1,029 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 97 on her career, which is second place in the Alabama annals, tied with 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 a new school record 49 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 30 games this season. The old record was 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.

Alabama senior Whitney Larsen smacked a three-run homer on her senior day to move into sole possession of third place on the Alabama home run list. Larsen has 41 career homers which moved her past the 40 career round-trippers of Stephanie VanBrakle. On the season, the senior has drilled seven home runs, added 32 RBI and is hitting .346. Charlotte Morgan ranks second all-time with 58 homers and Kelly Kretschman holds the top mark with 60 home runs.

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 (.649), home runs (58), doubles (49) and stolen bases (87). The team ranks second in runs (244), RBI (227), total bases (489), walks (118) and third in on-base percentage (.445) and hits (258). In the circle, the Tide rank second in ERA (1.31), opposing batting average (.160), hits allowed (106) and leads the circuit in strikeouts (265).

Numerous Alabama individuals currently pace the league in several categories. Kayla Braud (.505) and Jackie Traina (.408) are in the top 10 in batting average as Braud leads the league and Traina checks in at 10th. Braud sits atop the conference in on-base percentage (.689) and stolen bases (38) and is second in hits (46). Traina is the leader in slugging percentage (1.000) and home runs (13), and ranks third in runs batted in (39). In the circle, Kelsi Dunne is first in opposing batting average (.114) and batters truck out (141) and third in ERA (0.81).

Alabama will return home to the friendly confines of Rhoads Stadium for a weekend series against Arkansas. The three-game set against the Razorbacks will begin on Friday, March 25 with first pitch at 6:30 p.m. CDT.