The sixth ranked Alabama softball team (26-4, 6-0 SEC) returns to SEC play this weekend as they host the second ranked Tennessee Lady Vols (27-1, 2-1) in a three-game series at the UA Softball Stadium.
The series marks the second straight year that both teams are ranked in the Top 10 heading into the match-up. This year is also the first time that one of the teams was ranked so high heading into the series. In 2001, the Crimson Tide arrived in Knoxville with a No. 3 ranking and a 26-game winning streak on the line. Alabama won the first game of the series, but the Lady Vols pulled off the upset ending Bama’s winning streak.
The Crimson Tide repaid the favor a few years later in the 2004 season when the Lady Vols came to town riding the strong left arm of freshman sensation Monica Abbott. With Tennessee leading 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh and one out away from its first ever win at the UA Softball Stadium, Stephanie VanBrakle stepped to the plate and hit a three-run walk-off home run giving the Tide a 4-3 win and momentum towards a series sweep.
“It’s becoming one of the best rivalries in the (SEC) with two top six teams in the country and two of the best pitchers in the conference,” said head coach Patrick Murphy. “I think it’s going to be a battle and it’s going to be a fun three-game series to watch as a fan.”
Alabama leads the all-time series 19-10, but the match-ups have now become more meaningful than just regular season clashes. The last three games have been played in post-season settings. The two teams met twice in last season’s SEC Tournament with Tennessee winning the first game, but Alabama responded the second time around with a 3-0 win eliminating the Lady Vols from the tournament. It wasn’t the last meeting between the two clubs though as they met up again in the College World Series, marking the first time two teams from the SEC faced each other in Oklahoma City. Tennessee eliminated Alabama from the World Series with a 4-0 victory, ending the Tide’s season.
Sophomore Jordan Praytor leads the Alabama offense with a .405 average. Dani Woods and Staci Ramsey provide the power numbers in the lineup with a team best four home runs each and 21 RBI, which is also best on the team.
VanBrakle and Chrissy Owens spearhead the Tide pitching staff. Owens leads the staff with a 0.52 ERA while VanBrakle has a team best 15-2 record and 177 strikeouts.
The three-game set is scheduled to begin with a doubleheader on Saturday with first pitch set for 1:00 p.m. CT. Both games will be televised on WVUA and WOTM on a tape-delay basis. Game 1 is scheduled to be televised at 2:00 p.m. while Game 2 will be televised at 8:00 p.m. Fans can also follow all the action on www.rolltide.com where live stats and audio will be available. A limited number of tickets are still available and can be purchased at the stadium on the day of the game.