No. 1 Softball Returns Home to Face Arkansas

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Alabama will host Arkansas in a three-game series this weekend.
Alabama will host Arkansas in a three-game series this weekend.

March 24, 2011

Games 33-35 |  No. 1 Alabama (30-2, 6-1 SEC) vs. Arkansas (10-21, 1-9 SEC)
 Date Friday, March 25 | 6:30 p.m. CDT
Saturday, March 26 | 1:30 p.m. CDT
Sunday, March 27 | 1:30 p.m. CDT
 Location Tuscaloosa, Ala. | Rhoads Stadium (3,395)
 Tickets Brickyard General Admission $5 | Purchase Online
 Television WVUA (Gary Harris)
 Radio WVUA-FM 90.7 - Tuscaloosa (Neil Fredrickson and Chad Haynie) | Listen Live
 Live Stats GameTracker (Fri.) | GameTracker (Sat.) | GameTracker (Sun.)
 Streaming Video Tide TV (Friday) | Tide TV (Saturday) | TideTV (Sunday)
 Game Notes Alabama Notes | Arkansas Notes
 All-Time Series Alabama leads, 42-7

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The No. 1-ranked Alabama softball team (30-2, 6-1 SEC) will return home to host Arkansas (10-21, 1-9 SEC) in a three-game Southeastern Conference series. The Crimson Tide will square off against the Razorbacks, starting on Friday with first pitch set for 6:30 p.m. CDT, at Rhoads Stadium. The Saturday and Sunday matchups are both scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

The No. 1-ranked Alabama softball team split its doubleheader with No. 11 Tennessee, Tuesday evening at Lee Stadium. The Crimson Tide won the first game, 9-5, and then fell in the nightcap, 4-1. This was the first time Alabama had played on the road in SEC action. In the first game of the doubleheader, senior Kelsi Dunne improved to 14-1 on the season with the win in the circle while at the plate junior Cassie Reilly-Boccia collected two hits and drove in two runs. Junior Jennifer Fenton also tallied two hits and drove in three. In the evening matchup, Tennessee freshman pitcher Ellen Renfroe allowed just one run on two hits to hand Alabama its first conference loss of the season. The rookie fanned seven but walked six to earn the win and improve to 14-2 on the season. The loss in the circle for freshman Jackie Traina was her first of her collegiate career. Traina allowed four runs - three earned - on seven hits and struck out nine in six innings. Sophomore Kayla Braud and Jennifer Fenton were the only Tide players to record a hit in the contest.

Since SEC play has begun, freshman Kaila Hunt has led Alabama at the plate with a .375 average (6-for-16) with a home run, two doubles and four runs scored. Fellow freshman Jackie Traina has hit a pair of home runs, including a grand slam with a team-best six RBI. In the circle, the rookie has gone 2-1, earned her first career save and struck out 25 batters. Sophomore Courtney Conley has batted .214 (3-for-14) and has equaled Traina with two home runs and six RBI. Sophomore Kayla Braud has now reached base in 51 straight games which breaks the school record of 48 set by Kelly Kretschman in 1998. Braud has hit .304 (7-for-23) since league action began with two doubles and six runs. Senior Kelsi Dunne eclipsed the 1,000 strikeout mark last Wednesday against Auburn, becoming the third Tide pitcher to do so. She enters the week with 1,037 career strikeouts, nearing the 1,045 mark of Shelley Laird. Dunne also earned her 98th career win against Tennessee on Tuesday which is now second in the UA annals.

Arkansas enters the weekend with a 10-21 overall record and a 1-9 conference mark. The Razorbacks are coming off a doubleheader split at Mississippi where they lost the first game, 4-3 and won the nightcap, 7-6. On the season, Arkansas is hitting .256 with 15 home runs and 97 RBI. They are pitching at a 4.28 clip while opponents are hitting .294 and sport a 2.74 ERA. Individually, Becca Carden is hitting .348 with five home runs and 20 RBI. Macy Burr follows with a .302 average while Courtney Breault is hitting an even .300 with two homers and 12 RBI. In the circle, Kim Jones leads the team with a 4.04 ERA and is 2-7 on the season. Jones has struck out 68 in 71 innings and has allowed hitters to bat .293. Layne McGuirt is 2-6 with a 4.17 ERA. Opposing batters are hitting .318 and she has fanned 26 in 47 innings. The Razorbacks finished 28-29 in 2010 with a 10-18 conference record. Their season came to an end when Alabama earned a 9-0 win in the SEC Tournament opening round. Arkansas has 15 letterwinners and six starters returning in Mike Larabee's second season at the helm of the Razorback program.

Arkansas: Alabama has dominated its series against Arkansas, 42-7. Last season, the Crimson Tide used some last-second dramatics to seal the series sweep over the Razorbacks at Bogle Park in Fayetteville, Ark. Whitney Larsen batted 2-for-3 and drove in four runs to record eight RBI on the weekend. Kayla Braud added two hits and an RBI while Keima Davis took advantage once again of her playing time with a pair of knocks and two runs scored. The two teams met again in the opening round of the SEC Tournament with Alabama scoring all nine runs with two outs and using a seven-run fifth inning to run-rule Arkansas, 9-0. The Tide was led at the plate by Jennifer Fenton. The outfielder returned from an ankle injury as she collected two hits, drove in a run and scored once. Amanda Locke drove in two runs on two hits and scored a run while Larsen put an end to the contest with a grand slam. Larsen has owned Arkansas over the course of her career as she is batting .435 with four home runs and 14 RBI. Locke is hitting .500 with three homers and eight RBI while Kelsi Dunne is 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA and has struck out 28 in 19.2 innings pitched.

Alabama returned to the top of the softball world as it claimed the number one spot in both polls released on Tuesday. The Tide nabbed 16 of the 20 first-place votes in the Softball poll and 24 of the 30 votes in the USA Today/NFCA poll. The top two teams in the nation squared off over the weekend with then-No. 2 Alabama sweeping then-No.1 Georgia in three games, leading the Crimson Tide to the No. 1 ranking in the Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll. Alabama was the top ranked team in week three and has been the runner-up in three of the remaining five polls this season. After their 5-0 start last week, the Tide jumped ahead of fellow SEC school Florida to take the top spot in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 polls for the first time since March 3, 2009. Previous No. 1, Georgia (23-4), fell to third after finishing last week at 2-3.

Alabama P/DP Jackie Traina (Naples, Fla.) was named the Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week, the league office announced on Monday. The pitching honor is a career first for the newcomer as she has already been named SEC Freshman of the Week twice. It marks the second straight week a Crimson Tide hurler has earned the honor as Kelsi Dunne nabbed the award last week. Traina earned two wins and a save in her first week of action against league opponents. Traina sported a 1.79 ERA for the week and struck out 20 batters in 15.2 innings pitched. The right-hander held opposing batters to a .161 clip and allowed just nine hits.

Alabama once again faces a tough schedule as the Crimson Tide has already played 24 games against teams that participated in the 2010 NCAA tournament. The Crimson Tide sports a 22-2 record in those games in 2011 with its only loss coming against No. 17 Louisiana-Lafayette (1-0, March 4) and No. 11 Tennessee (4-1, March 22). They are a perfect 13-0 against the 2010 tourney teams inside the friendly confines of Rhoads Stadium. The Tide has outscored those opponents 159-44 and is hitting .289 with 34 home runs and 146 RBI. In the circle, Alabama is pitching at a 1.58 clip and holding those teams to a .172 batting average. Sophomore Kayla Braud leads the team with a .442 average and has scored 26 runs and swiped 22 bases. Freshman Jackie Traina is batting .333 with eight home runs and 25 RBI. Cassie Reilly-Boccia closely follows with 26 RBI while adding a .328 average with five home runs. In the circle, senior Kelsi Dunne is 13-1 with a 1.23 ERA. She has struck out 138 in 85.2 innings.

Alabama holds an 8-2 record against ranked opponents in 2011. The Tide has outscored its ranked opposition 54-24 while hitting .237 with 10 home runs and 46 RBI. In the circle, the Tide is pitching at a 2.09 clip and holding opponents to a .191 average. Alabama has now won seven of their last eight against ranked teams, including a sweep of No. 1 Georgia last weekend. Individually, Jennifer Fenton is hitting a .348 average with seven runs batted in. Kayla Braud is batting .333 and scored a team-best 10 runs while adding four doubles. In the circle, Kelsi Dunne is 6-1 with a 2.04 ERA and has struck out 64 in 44.2 innings.

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 last Wednesday against Auburn. The senior struck out Kelsey Cartwright in the first inning to reach the mark and now enters the weekend with 1,037 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 98 on her career, which is second place in the Alabama annals, ahead of 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 a new school record 51 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 32 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 .337. Charlotte Morgan ranks second all-time with 58 homers and Kelly Kretschman holds the top mark with 60 home runs.

The Tide is currently dominating several categories in Division I softball. Alabama leads the NCAA in home runs (58), home runs per game (1.93) and stolen bases (87). The Tide is seventh in total runs (224), 10th in ERA (1.31) and 11th in batting average (.342). Overall, Alabama has the third best overall record in NCAA Division I softball.

Several Crimson Tide softball players contribute to their team's success. Kayla Braud leads the NCAA in stolen bases (38), ranks third in batting average (.505), fifth in runs scored (40) and ninth in on-base percentage (.589). Jackie Traina's stellar freshman performance is being recognized as she ties for fourth in slugging percentage (1.000) and ties for fifth in home runs (13). On the verge of becoming the Alabama's all-time strikeout leader, Kelsi Dunne ranked seventh in ERA (0.81) and is tied for eighth in shutouts (6).

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: doubles (49), home runs (58) and stolen bases (88). The team ranks second in slugging percentage (.621), runs scored (254), runs batted in (237) and total bases (499). The Tide comes in at third in batting average (.334), on-base percentage (.442) and hits (268). In the circle, the Tide leads the circuit in strikeouts (283), second in ERA (1.50) and opposing batting average (.170), and third in hits allowed (121).

Numerous Alabama individuals currently pace the league in several categories. Kayla Braud leads the league in stolen bases (38) and is tied for first in runs scored (41). Braud ranks second in batting average (.485), on-base percentage (.570) and hits (48). Jackie Traina is tied for first in home runs (13). Traina comes in at third in slugging percentage (.935) and runs batted in (39). In the circle, Kelsi Dunne is first in opposing batting average (.127) and batters truck out (149), and fourth in ERA (1.13).

The Crimson Tide starts an eight-game road trip this Thursday. Alabama will first travel to Charleston, S.C., to take on the College of Charleston in a midweek contest. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. CDT, inside Patriots Point Athletics Complex.