No. 2 Alabama Continues SEC Play at Mississippi State

April 10, 2014

This weekend, No. 2/3 Alabama (36-5, 14-1 SEC) continues its SEC slate with a three-game series in Starkville, Miss., against the Mississippi State Bulldogs (30-13, 3-9 SEC). Game one will start at 5 p.m. CT on Friday, April 11, game two will start at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 12 and game three will start at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 13. Sunday's game is set to be broadcast on Fox Sports Net.

RADIO - 95.3 FM (Local Only Friday/Sunday, CTSN Network Affiliates Saturday)
TV - Fox SportSouth (Sunday)

Mississippi State (30-13, 3-9 SEC) - The Bulldogs own a 30-13 record this season, helped in large part to a 19-2 preseason record, though they only have won three conference games over four series so far. The Bulldogs saw a seven-game winning streak snapped last weekend against Missouri, losing two out of three games, and most recently fell in a midweek contest against No. 15 South Alabama, 3-2, on Wednesday. Freshman Carolina Seitz, a Birmingham, Ala., native, has been a big spark to the offense, leading the team with a .346 average, 45 hits and 16 doubles. With seven home runs and 23 RBI, she only trails senior Sam Lenahan in those categories for the team lead with eight and 34, respectively. Redshirt senior Alison Owen (15-8, 2.05 ERA) leads the pitching staff with 180 strikeouts over 130.0 innings pitched, while freshman Alexis Silkwood (8-4, 2.19 ERA) has emerged as a threat in the circle as well, owning an 8-4 record with 101 strikeouts in 99.0 innings.

Alabama holds a significant advantage in the all-time series, winning 52 of the 60 meetings between the teams. Mississippi State managed to break a streak of 21-consecutive losses by defeating Alabama last season in Tuscaloosa, 3-2, though the Tide went on to win games two and three to take the series. Prior to last season, the last time the Bulldogs beat the Tide was during the 2004 season. The two teams have met six times in the SEC Tournament, most recently in the opening round of the 2012 tournament. The two teams met for the 1998 SEC Tournament Championship, as the Tide defeated the Bulldogs, 5-4, for its first-ever SEC Tournament title.

Alabama outlasted a resilient UAB squad on Wednesday at Rhoads Stadium, stranding the potential tying run in scoring position in the final inning to hold on for the 4-3 victory. Alabama jumped ahead by three runs in the fifth inning, but UAB scored a pair in the remaining two innings to fight back within one as a called strikeout went for the final out, stopping the rally with the potential tying run at second. The Alabama bats were making solid contact, knocking in 12 hits with seven of those coming out of the top three in the order. Haylie McCleney went 3-4 with a pair of runs scored out of the leadoff position while Kaila Hunt drove in two RBI off a pair of hits, including a triple. Alabama starter Sydney Littlejohn (8-0) threw 6.2 innings for the win while Jaclyn Traina entered to secure the final out, earning her third save of the season. UAB lefty Lannah Campbell (9-7) threw a complete game in the loss with three earned runs allowed.

After an undefeated eight-game homestand, Alabama will have to be road warriors to close out the 2014 regular season, as 11 of its final 14 games are away from Rhoads Stadium. The Crimson Tide play eight-straight road games before returning home for a three-game series against No. 13 Georgia on April 24-26, but they turn right back around and head to Columbia, Mo., to close out the regular season at Missouri. Alabama is 8-3 this season in true road games, including six SEC contests. Alabama swept Ole Miss in Oxford and took two out of three games against the then-No. 1 Florida Gators in Gainesville.

Wednesday's win over UAB pushed Alabama's current winning streak to 10 games, the longest so far this season for the Tide. Before this streak, the longest set of consecutive wins this season came at the beginning of the year, as Alabama opened the season at 8-0 before falling in back-to-back games against Arizona. Those Arizona losses were the only time this season Alabama has lost back-to-back games, as the Tide have only lost three of its 30 games since then. The limited losses haven't hurt Alabama in the RPI, as the Tide are currently ranked No. 1 with losses to Florida (#4), Florida State (#6), Arizona (#7) and McNeese (#35).

Senior Jaclyn Traina has been one of the most reliable starters in the country over the last month, winning 12-straight starts to improve her record to 15-3. Her last loss came to McNeese on Feb. 23, but she has since claimed wins in every start including one against then-No. 9 Florida State and two against then-No. 1 Florida. In those 12 starts, she owns a 1.51 ERA with three shutouts and has not allowed any opponent to score more than three earned runs. During the stretch, she has 73 strikeouts to just 32 walks (2.28 K/BB) and has allowed just 49 hits, averaging about four per outing. While she hasn't needed it, the Tide offense has given her more than enough run support, as Alabama outscored its opponents 86-22 over those 12 starts. In addition to her 12 starts, she has been reliable out of the bullpen, throwing 7.2 relief innings since the McNeese loss including three saves against Georgia State, South Alabama and UAB. Following her two wins at Florida, she was named SEC Pitcher of the Week, USA Softball Player of the Week and NFCA Co-National Player of the Week. It was Alabama's first USA Softball weekly honor since 2010, and the first NFCA weekly honor since 2009.

The Amateur Softball Association (ASA) and USA Softball have announced its Top 25 Finalists for the 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, and Alabama's Haylie McCleney and Jaclyn Traina are among those to qualify. Alabama and Tennessee are the only SEC schools to qualify any players to the Top 25 and, with two finalists each, they join Arizona State, Florida State, Michigan Minnesota, Oregon, South Alabama and Tulsa as the only teams with two finalists. Arizona, Baylor, Oklahoma, South Florida, Texas, UCLA and Western Illinois have one finalist each. The list will be narrowed down starting next month, with the Top 10 Finalists announced on May 7, the Top 3 on May 21 and the winner on May 27, prior to the start of the Women's College World Series.

A win over South Alabama and a sweep over Arkansas helped Alabama improve its winning streak to a season-high nine games and move the Crimson Tide to its highest ranking of the season, earning a No.  2 spot in the Softball poll and a No. 3 spot in the USA Today/NFCA poll. The Tide jumps two spots in the latest Softball poll, moving all the way up to No. 2 from No. 4 last week. Alabama is receiving one first-place vote, while top-ranked Oregon is earning 18 of a possible 20 first-place votes, moving up from No. 3 last week thanks to two wins over UCLA, who swapped spots with the Ducks this week. Two losses in Baton Rouge dropped Tennessee all the way to No. 5, while Michigan jumped the Lady Vols to earn a No. 4 spot this week. Alabama climbed to its highest ranking of the season in the USA Today/NFCA poll, moving up one spot to a No. 3 ranking this week. It is Alabama's highest spot in the poll since March 5, 2013, when the Tide owned the top spot. Alabama is now the highest-ranked SEC team, as Tennessee fell from No. 2 to No. 4 after losing two games to LSU last weekend in Baton Rouge. Oregon jumped to No. 1, earning 30 of a possible 32 first-place votes, after winning two games last weekend at home against UCLA, who fell from the top spot to No. 2 this week. The SEC boasts the most top-25 teams of any conference as eight SEC teams are ranked in both polls: Alabama (2/3), Tennessee (5/4), Florida (8/6), Kentucky (11/11), Georgia (17/13), Missouri (18/16), Auburn (21/20) and Texas A&M (22/21). LSU is still receiving votes in both polls.

The Iron Bowl of softball is due up next for the Crimson Tide, as they head to Lagoon Park in Montgomery, Ala., to face the Auburn Tigers (31-9-1) on Wednesday, April 16 at 6:30 p.m. CT. Since it is just a single game and not a three-game series, the matchup will not count as an SEC contest between the teams.