April 23, 2014
This weekend, seventh-ranked Alabama (40-8, 15-3) hosts its final home series, welcoming the Georgia Bulldogs (38-10, 11-7 SEC) for three games at Rhoads Stadium. Game one is set for a 7 p.m. CT start on Thursday, April 24 and will be aired on ESPN. Game two will not be televised and is set for a 6:30 p.m. start on Friday, April 25. Alabama will be back on the air on Saturday, April 26, with the game aired live on ESPNU set to start at 11 a.m. CT.
THE TIDE ON THE AIR
RADIO: 95.3 FM (Thursday: CTSN Network, Friday/Saturday: Local Only)
Thursday - ESPN (Beth Mowins, Jessica Mendoza, Michele Smith)
Saturday - ESPNU (Beth Mowins, Jessica Mendoza)
*Both TV games can be watched online at www.watchespn.com or via the WatchESPN mobile app*
Georgia (38-10, 11-7 SEC) - The Bulldogs are in the hunt for an SEC Championship heading down the stretch, as they are four games behind the Crimson Tide in the conference standings. Georgia has won four of its six SEC series this season, though both losing efforts came on the road at Missouri and LSU. The Bulldogs won big in two games over Auburn last weekend, defeating them 11-2 and 8-4 in the first two games before the tables were turned in game three, as the Tigers won 8-1 to avoid the sweep. Georgia suffered a minor setback in its next midweek game, falling 4-2 to Georgia State on Tuesday. The Bulldogs have hit an SEC-leading 71 home runs, led by sophomore Alex Hugo with 19 to go along with a .366 average and 52 RBI. Junior Paige Wilson leads the team with a .391 average, 63 hits, 12 doubles, four triples and is second on the team with 10 home runs. In the circle, they have split time relatively evenly between sophomores Chelsea Wilkinson (24-6, 2.11 ERA) and Geri Ann Glasco (14-4, 2.55 ERA), with Wilkinson throwing 214 of the team's 322 strikeouts over 175.2 innings pitched.
Alabama holds a 34-14 advantage in the all-time series against Georgia. The two teams last met during the 2012 SEC Tournament in Tuscaloosa, with the Tide winning a close 1-0 game en route to an SEC Tournament Championship. Earlier that season, Alabama won two of three games against Georgia in a three-game series in Athens. The last three-game series in Tuscaloosa was in 2011, which Alabama swept. The Tide's last series loss to the Bulldogs was in 2005, as Alabama has won seven-straight series since.
LAST TIME OUT: BATS COME ALIVE LATE IN 12-0 SHUTOUT OVER SOUTHERN MISS
Alabama's 40th win of the season came in convincing fashion, as the Crimson Tide scored nine runs in the final two innings to earn a 12-0 shutout win over Southern Miss on the road. Alabama put on an offensive showcase against Southern Miss, scoring 12 runs off 10 hits with five Golden Eagle fielding errors helping the Tide's cause. Kallie Case went 3-5 out of the two-hole with three RBI while Haylie McCleney and Chaunsey Bell each earned a pair of hits. Marisa Runyon hit her second career homer, as she has cleared the fence in two of her last three games. Sydney Littlejohn (9-1) earned the win in the circle with 5.0 strong innings, while Leslie Jury threw 2.0 scoreless relief innings behind her. Southern Miss starter Samantha Robles (6-11) went the distance in the losing effort, allowing 12 runs though only four of them were earned.
SEC DOWN THE STRETCH
With two SEC series remaining in the regular season, Alabama holds a three-game lead over Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee. Trailing close behind in the overall race are Florida and Georgia, who are each four games behind the Crimson Tide. With a sweep over Georgia this weekend and losses by Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, Alabama could clinch an SEC Championship by holding a four-game lead over the field with just three games remaining. Since there is no tie-breaker for determining a regular season champion, a three-game lead over the field heading into the final weekend would guarantee at least a share of the regular season title. The Lady Vols and the Wildcats face each other this weekend in Lexington, while Missouri hits the road to face the Gators in Gainesville. Alabama and Missouri meet in the final weekend of the regular season, while Tennessee plays Ole Miss at home and Kentucky plays Georgia on the road.
RUNYON PINCH-HITTING FOR POWER
Freshman Marisa Runyon has been making the most of her opportunities lately, hitting a pinch-hit home run in two of the last three games. Her first came against Georgia Southern on Friday, April 18 in Chapel Hill, N.C. Runyon cleared the fence in straightaway center to score two and give the Tide a 4-2 lead off her first career long ball. She didn't have to wait long for her second, as she entered as a pinch hitter on Tuesday, April 22 against Southern Miss. She turned on the fist pitch of the at-bat and launched it over the right-field fence to score three and give Alabama a commanding 7-0 lead. Over the last three games, Runyon is 3-5 (.600) with three runs scored and six RBI.
TRAINA STRONG SINCE THE UPSET LOSS
McNeese handed senior Jaclyn Traina her second loss of the season on Feb. 23, but no one has been able to do so since then as she has won 14 of her 15 starts since that loss. Her one start in which she didn't get a win during that stretch was a no-decision against Mississippi State on April 13, as she threw 9.0 shutout innings before exiting in the 10th inning with two runners on as both eventually came around to score. She earned national recognition for a 2-0 weekend over the Florida Gators in Gainesville, as she was named the USA Softball Player of the Week and the NFCA Co-Player of the Week, the first such honor for any Alabama player since 2010. Over those 15 starts, she owns a 1.53 ERA with 88 strikeouts in 100.2 innings. Houston (Feb. 28), Arkansas (April 5) and Georgia Southern (April 18) are the only teams to earn more than five hits against her and no team has tallied more than three earned runs.
SPENCER SWINGING FOR THE FENCES
Junior Jadyn Spencer has been hot at the plate lately, hitting a home run in each of last week's three games. Her walk-off shot against Georgia Southern was Alabama's first walk-off homer in nearly two years, as Cassie Reilly-Boccia last did so on April 15, 2012 against South Carolina. The last Alabama player to hit a home run in at least three-straight games was Amanda Locke, who cleared the fence in four-straight games from April 20-27, 2012. Spencer has hit a home run in four of her last seven games with six runs scored and six RBI.
LITTLEJOHN COMING UP BIG
Freshman Sydney Littlejohn was nearly perfect in the circle last week, throwing 4.2 relief innings with just one hit and one walk allowed. She threw 1.2 perfect innings against Auburn on Wednesday, facing the minimum five batters. She earned her second save of the season on Friday against North Carolina, throwing 3.0 innings with just one hit and one walk allowed. She threw just 57 pitches to 15 batters faced, averaging 3.8 pitches-per-batter, and threw 36 of her 57 pitches for strikes (63 percent). On Tuesday, she threw 5.0 shutout innings against Southern Miss, allowing just three hits with five strikeouts, facing just four batters over the minimum. This season, Littlejohn is 9-1 with two saves and a 1.52 ERA over 60.0 innings pitched.
NEXT TIME OUT: MAY 1-3 AT #15/17 MISSOURI
Alabama concludes the regular season with a three-game series in Columbia, Mo., against the Missouri Tigers (35-12, 12-6 SEC). The series begins on Thursday, May 1 at 7 p.m. CT with the game aired live on ESPN. Game two will start at 6:30 p.m. CT on Friday, May 2 and the series finale, aired on ESPNU, will be at 1 p.m. CT on Saturday, May 3.