Alabama Softball In Nation's Top 10

The Alabama softball team will begin the 2011 season ranked in the top 10 in both the Softball and USA Today/NFCA preseason softball polls. The Crimson Tide checks in at No. 3, earning a first place vote in the USA Softball poll and was tabbed No. 6 in the NFCA rankings.

"It's always an honor just to be considered for the top 25 rankings in college softball," Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy said. "We know we have a lot of work to do as we are still a fairly young team. I'm encouraged by our offensive showing in practices this early in the season. We could be another fun team to watch when it is all said and done."

Alabama will once again be playing one of the toughest schedules in the country as it will play 18 regular season games against top 25 opponents, including eight against teams that reside in the top five. On top of the 18 contests, the Tide will play 12 games against teams receiving votes.

Murphy, who enters his 13th season at the helm of the Tide softball program, returns nine players that started the majority of the games from a team that finished 52-11 overall and won both the Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament championships in 2010.

All-Americans Kelsi Dunne and Kayla Braud return to the roster this season. Braud jumped onto the scene as a freshman, breaking the Alabama single season batting record with a .505 average. Dunne also etched her name in the Alabama record books by striking out a school record 355 batters en route to being named the SEC Pitcher of the Year and an All-American for the third straight season.

Alabama will open its season at the HIbbett Sports/Easton All-Alabama Classic. The Tide will play a total of five games over the course of three days, beginning on Friday, Feb. 11, at Liberty Park in Vestavia Hills.

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