March 29, 2012
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The second-ranked Alabama softball team (32-1, 9-1 SEC) will stay on the road as it travels to Starkville, Miss., this weekend to take on Southeastern Conference foe Mississippi State (19-15, 3-10 SEC) in a three game series at the MSU Softball Stadium. First pitch is slated for 7 p.m., on Friday, with Saturday and Sunday’s games scheduled for 1 p.m. start times.
LAST TIME OUT
The Crimson Tide looked to bounce back from their first conference loss of the season as Alabama traveled to the Plains to take on rival Auburn in a doubleheader at Jane B. Moore Field on Tuesday, and they did not disappoint. Behind the bat of Kaila Hunt and the arm of Jackie Traina, Alabama swept the doubleheader to extend its winning streak over the Tigers to 17 consecutive games. In the first game of the day, the Tide defeated Auburn, 4-2, as Traina threw a complete game one hitter, striking out nine batters. Cassie Reilly-Boccia slammed a two-run home run to jump start UA, and after Auburn answered back with a single run, Amanda Locke crushed a solo shot to extend the Tide’s lead. In the second game, Alabama used two Hunt home runs to power its way to a 5-2 victory. Hunt had three hits in the game, and Traina again threw a complete game, this time allowing just two runs on four hits while striking out another nine batters, to improve to 19-0 on the year. Traina threw 240 pitches in the doubleheader and gave up just three earned runs in the two games.
WHO TO WATCH
Sophomore shortstop Kaila Hunt and senior first baseman Cassie Reilly-Boccia have been on an absolute tear at the plate in the past six games, combining for four home runs and 13 runs batted in on 12 hits. Hunt, who leads the SEC in home runs and RBIs, hit three home runs and knocked in six runs the past six games, while Reilly-Boccia hit a home run against Auburn but has seven runs batted in during the six game stretch. Both players have combined for 10 walks, with Reilly-Boccia earning eight free passes. She leads the team with 26 walks on the season.
SCOUTING MISSISSIPPI STATE
The Bulldogs enter this weekend’s series with a 19-15 record overall and a 3-10 mark in SEC play. MSU is coming off of a 4-3 extra inning victory over Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday in nonconference action. MSU hit a tying two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to send the game to extra innings, and was able to beat a throw home on an infield single to earn the win. In their last SEC outing, the Bulldogs were swept in three games by Tennessee. Senior outfielder Brittany Bell is fourth in the SEC and leads the Bulldogs at the plate with a .419 (36-for-86) batting average with seven home runs and 26 runs batted in. She also leads the team with seven doubles and three triples. Junior outfielder Jessica Cooley has hit .333 (32-for-96) and leads the team with nine home runs and has knocked in 25 runs. Junior pitcher Stephanie Becker leads the way in the circle, with a 10-7 record and 106 strikeouts in 116 1/3 innings of work. MSU returns 17 letterwinners from last season’s 24-32 team that finished fourth in the SEC West. The Bulldogs are led by head coach Vann Stuedeman, who is in her first season in Starkville after being an assistant at Alabama for 11 seasons.
Alabama has dominated the series with Mississippi State, winning 23 straight games against the Bulldogs. The Tide leads the series 46-7, after UA swept the three game series against MSU last year in the regular season and then defeated the Bulldogs 5-1 in the SEC Tournament. The Tide outscored the Bulldogs in the four games last season 29-8, hitting eight home runs while allowing just 11 hits in the four games. Junior Kayla Braud is hitting .550 with nine runs scored against MSU while senior Jazlyn Lunceford is hitting .455 with a home run and 10 RBI against the division rivals.
Alabama enters the weekend as the No. 1 ranked team in the first published RPI rankings by the NCAA. Two opponents on the schedule reside in the top five and seven are in the top 25. UA has 14 teams on the schedule that are currently ranked in the top 50.
HOME RUN POWER
Alabama enters the weekend ranked second in the country with 54 home runs. The Tide has been hitting the longball consistently as of late, going deep in 17 straight games. Overall the Tide has belted a home run in 29 of the 33 games and has hit two or more home runs in 19 games this season.
Alabama senior Cassie Reilly-Boccia is rapidly climbing up the career record charts. Reilly-Boccia currently ranks second all-time in walk with 159. 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 125 career bases to rank third all time. Brittany Rogers holds the mark with 198 stolen bases. Senior Jennifer Fenton checks in at fourth all-time with 108 stolen bases. Senior Amanda Locke is powering her way into the home run record book as she ranks fourth all-time with 44 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.
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 1077 games and start 852 times. Five of the six seniors have started more than 100 games in their careers and three of the seniors have eclipsed the 200-games played mark. Cassie Reilly-Boccia leads the senior class with 222 games played and 209 starts.
Alabama has raced out to a 32-1 start and has been doing it in impressive fashion. The Tide has outscored its opponents 256-75, including a 62-7 advantage in the first inning. UA is averaging 7.76 runs per game and 8.82 hits per contest. Kayla Braud and Jennifer Fenton are averaging over a run per game while Cassie Reilly-Boccia, Amanda Lock and Kaila Hunt are driving in nearly run per game. In the circle Jackie Traina is averaging 9.5 strikeouts per contest.
NCAA TEAM STATS
The Tide IS ranked highly in several categories at the NCAA level as well. They are eighth in batting average (.345) and third in scoring (7.97 runs/game). UA is second in both slugging percentage (.613) and in home runs per game (1.61). The Tide is eighth in the country with 2.29 stolen bases per game. (Stats as of 3-25-12)
NCAA INDIVIDUAL STATS
Alabama has several players ranked nationally. Kaila Hunt is 17th in home runs (10), 23rd in home runs per game (.34) and 25th in RBI/game (1.14). Kayla Braud is 13th in stolen bases per game (.69), 22nd in batting average (.446) and 23rd in on-base percentage (.540). Cassie Reilly-Boccia is seventh overall nationally in on-base percentage (.571). Pitcher Jackie Traina is second in wins (17), 12th in strikeouts (140), and ninth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.6) (Stats as of 3-25-12)
SEC TEAM STATS
As a team, Alabama leads the conference in almost every offensive category, starting with a .339 (291-for-859) batting average. UA is also tops in hits (291), runs (256), home runs (54), doubles (52), walks (145), total bases (521), slugging percentage (.607), on base percentage (.452), runs batted in (233), and stolen bases (73). UA is third in triples (8) and Alabama pitchers have recorded 242 strikeouts, good for second in conference.
SEC INDIVIDUAL STATS
Kayla Braud leads the conference in hitting with a .433 (39-for-90) batting average. Braud is also tops in stolen bases with 22 on the year. She is tied for fourth in runs with teammate Jennifer Fenton with 31. Fenton is third in the SEC with three triples. Cassie Reilly-Boccia leads the conference with a .585 on base percentage, while sitting at sixth in the conference with a .408 (29-for-71) batting average. She has also drawn 26 walks, good for third in the SEC. Kaila Hunt leads the league with 12 home runs and 35 runs batted in. Pitcher Jackie Traina leads the league with 19 wins and is second with 158 strikeouts. Opponents are only batting .165 against her, which is good for third lowest in the league.
NEXT TIME OUT
Alabama will return to Rhoads Stadium next weekend for a three game series against LSU. First pitch is set for next Friday, April 6, at 7 p.m. The first game will air on ESPNU while Fox Sports will broadcast the Sunday contest.