Softball Heads to Montgomery for Wednesday Game Against Auburn

April 15, 2014

THIS WEEK
On Wednesday, April 16, sixth-ranked Alabama (37-7, 15-3 SEC) will head south to Lagoon Park in Montgomery, Ala., to face the No. 23 Auburn Tigers (31-12-1, 6-9 SEC) in a single non-conference matchup. The game is set for a 6:30 p.m. CT start.

THE TIDE ON THE AIR
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SCOUTING AUBURN
Auburn (31-12-1, 6-9 SEC) - The Tigers are under new leadership in 2014, as former Arizona State head coach and two-time national champion Clint Meyers looks to built Auburn into an SEC contender. They started conference play with series wins against LSU, Mississippi State and Kentucky but have since lost seven-consecutive games, including sweeps at the hands of Florida and Missouri. Freshman Kasey Cooper has had a breakout rookie season for the Tigers, leading the team with 51 hits and 11 home runs, while junior Branndi Melero owns a team-leading .422 average with 62 RBI. In the circle, sophomore Lexi Davis (16-8, 2.49 ERA) has seen the most innings, throwing 157.1 over 31 appearances with 119 strikeouts. Fellow sophomore Marcy Harper (14-2, 3.59 ERA) also owns triple-digit strikeouts this season, fanning 103 batters over 93.2 innings pitched.

SERIES HISTORY
Alabama and Auburn have met 56 times in program history, with the Tide winning 42 of those meetings. The Tigers snapped an 18-game losing streak last season, winning game two of the series in Tuscaloosa, 7-4, but Alabama won the rubber match the next day, 13-1, to win the series. This is the first season since 1998 that the two teams will not play a three-game series and is the only time in program history where the teams will meet in just one game. The teams have met five times in SEC Tournament history, playing in five-consecutive tournaments from 2001-2005 with Alabama winning four of the five meetings.

LAST TIME OUT: ALABAMA SUFFERS FIRST SEC SERIES LOSS OF SEASON TO MSU
Last weekend, Alabama suffered its first conference series loss of the season, dropping the final two games to Mississippi State in Starkville. The Tide bats were hot in game one, blasting three home runs en route to a 5-1 victory that gave Jaclyn Traina her 13th-straight win in the circle.  The Bulldogs evened the series on Saturday, winning 4-2 as Mississippi State starter Alison Owen limited the Tide to a season-low two hits and a season-high 12 strikeouts. Sunday’s deciding game three was a marathon, stretching to 10 innings before the first runs went on the board, courtesy of a Kallie Case RBI single and a two-run triple by Haylie McCleney in the top-half of the inning. The three-run lead proved not enough however, as the Bulldogs mounted a huge comeback in the home-half of the inning to win via a walk-off sacrifice fly, 4-3, and hand the Tide its first SEC series loss of the season.

MCCLENEY MAKES SPLASH IN CAREER RECORDS
With 307 career at-bats, sophomore Haylie McCleney now meets the minimum requirements to be included in the career records at Alabama and she has made quite a splash in her debut. Her .472 career batting average (145-307) is currently the best in school history, better than Kayla Braud’s career .438 average (344-786) that became a new school record last season that surpassed Kelly Kretschman’s career average of .437 (368-842) by just one point. McCleney’s career .570 on-base percentage also is currently a school record, besting Kretschman’s .533 percentage. McCleney owns a .964 stolen base percentage (54-56), tying Jennifer Fenton at the top of the list, and McCleney also ranks third with a career slugging percentage of .697.

STUDENT MEETING TEACHER
Friday’s win over Mississippi State gave senior Jaclyn Traina her 96th career win, putting her just one win shy of tying current pitching coach and former Tide All-American Stephanie VanBrakle (2003-06) at third all-time in the Alabama records. Traina and VanBrakle are two of only four Alabama pitchers to earn over 70 wins in the circle, trailing Kelsi Dunne (113, 2008-11) and Shelley Laird (115, 1999-02). Traina is only one win shy of VanBrakle’s mark, but has reached it in 68.0 fewer innings, throwing just 776.0 career innings to VanBrakle’s 844.0. Traina also has 15 fewer career appearances (144) and nine fewer starts (116) than VanBrakle (159/125).

SOFTBALL RETAINS TOP 10 RANKING AT NO. 6/7 IN LATEST POLLS
A pair of conference road losses over the weekend dropped Alabama a few spots in the national rankings, but the Crimson Tide remain in the top 10 as they sit at No. 6 in this week’s ESPN.com/USA Softball poll and No. 7 in the USA Today/NFCA poll. The Tide fell four spots in the latest ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, falling to No. 6 after earning a No. 2 ranking last week. Oregon is a unanimous No. 1 pick for the second-straight week, while UCLA moves up one spot from No. 3 last week to No. 2 this week. Michigan, Tennessee and Arizona State each moved up one spot as well with the vacancy left by the Crimson Tide, who sits behind those six teams this week. Alabama dropped four spots in the USA Today/NFCA poll as well, falling from No. 3 last week to No. 7 this week. Oregon is the first unanimous No. 1 pick of the season in the poll, earning all 32 first-place votes. At No. 3, the Wolverines jumped the fourth-ranked Lady Vols while Florida and Arizona State sit in fifth and sixth, respectively. Yet again, the SEC boasts the most top-25 teams of any conference as eight SEC teams are ranked in both polls: Tennessee (4/4), Alabama (6/7), Florida (7/6), Kentucky (11/8), Missouri (15/13), Georgia (18/15), Texas A&M (22/21) and Auburn (23/23). LSU cracked the Top 25 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, sitting at No. 24, but are still just receiving votes in the USA Today/NFCA poll along with Mississippi State.

NEXT TIME OUT: APRIL 18-19 VS. GEORGIA SOUTHERN/UNC
This weekend, Alabama gets a break from conference play with three games in Chapel Hill, N.C. On Friday, April 18, the Tide will play two games, facing the Georgia Southern Eagles (29-13) at 2:30 p.m. CT and the North Carolina Tar Heels (22-20) at 5 p.m. CT. On Saturday, April 19, Alabama and North Carolina will meet a second time at 11 a.m. CT.