Alabama Softball In Big Series

It's a battle of top ten softball teams this week as the Alabama Crimson Tide goes to Gainesville for a three-game series against the Florida Gators beginning Friday. The second and third games of the series will be nationally televised.

Alabama is ranked third in the nation in one poll and fourth in the other with a 41-5 record, including 15-4 Southeastern Conference mark. Florida is ranked eighth in one poll, ninth in another as the Gators have put together a 38-7 record, including 13-6 record in SEC games. Bama and Tennessee are tied for the league lead.

The Bama-Florida series begins at 5 p.m. EDT (4 p.m. central) Friday at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium. Saturday's first pitch is at 4 p;.m. EDT (3 central) with coverage by ESPN2. Sunday's final game begins at 1 p.m. EDT (noon CDT) with ESPN televising.

Alabama is coming off a three-game sweep of Mississippi State in which Crimson Tide Coach Patrick Murphy earned his 700th career victory and senior Kelsi Dunne set the Bama career strikeout record.

Florida is coming off a sweep of Auburn. The Gators set a school record with eight home runs in the third games of the series at Auburn.

Bama is 8-2 against ranked teams this year, but the Tide is only 8-4 on the road for the 2011 season. The Tide has gone 1-3 in its last four road games, including a sweep to the hands of LSU in Baton Rouge. Florida will be the first ranked opponent for the Tide outside of Rhoads Stadium since splitting a doubleheader with then-No.11 Tennessee on March 22.

Over the last 10 games Alabama sophomore Kayla Braud leads the team with a .405 batting average, 15 hits, seven runs and five stolen bases. Junior Amanda Locke follows with a .360 average, nine hits, and five RBI. Junior Jazlyn Lunceford isn't too far behind with a .353 average, six hits, three runs, and six RBI. In the circle, senior Kelsi Dunne sports a 4-1 record with a 0.87 ERA while fanning 62 in 48 1/3 innings. Freshman Jackie Traina is 3-2 with a 1.27 ERA. The right-hander has struck out 25 in 27 2/3 innings.

Alabama entered the week ranked No. 2 in the RPI. Georgia sits in the top spot in the rankings. The Crimson Tide checked in at No. 1 in the initial RPI rankings. Alabama is one of six SEC teams in the top 25 in the RPI rankings. Thirteen teams that Alabama has already played in 2011 reside in the top 50 of the RPI.

The Tide is ranked in several categories in Division I softball. The Crimson Tide ranks second in the NCAA in total stolen bases (112) due to Kayla Braud's team-leading 45 stolen bases. Alabama ranks third in home runs (80) and in home runs per game (1.74). The Tide is fifth in total runs (338), while placing fifth in both slugging percentage (.585) and ERA (1.36). Overall, Alabama has the third best record in NCAA Division I softball at a .891 winning percentage.

Several Crimson Tide softball players contribute to their team's success. Kayla Braud leads the NCAA in stolen bases (45), third in runs scored (54), ninth in runs per game (1.17) and ranks 11th in batting average (.462) and 20th in on base percentage (.543). Jackie Traina's stellar freshman performance is being recognized as she ties for 24th in home runs (13). After becoming the Alabama's all-time strikeout queen, Kelsi Dunne is third in hits allowed per seven innings (3.17), 15th in shutouts (8), 11th in strikeouts per seven innings (10.6), 13th in ERA (1.12), 18th in strikeouts (227) and 16th in total wins (20).

The Tide ranks high in the conference in several statistical categories. Offensively, the Tide leads the circuit in: stolen bases (112). The team ranks second in runs scored (338), runs batted in (312), home runs (80) and total bases (691). The Tide comes in at third in slugging percentage (.585), hits (381) and doubles (62). In the circle, the Tide leads the circuit in ERA (1.62), opposing batting average (.166), strikeouts (406), hits allowed (175) and runs allowed (77).

Alabama individuals rank high in the league in several categories. Kayla Braud leads in batting average (.462), runs scored (54), stolen bases (45) and tied for first in hits (67). Braud ranks second in on-base percentage (.543) and 10th in doubles (10). Jackie Traina comes in at fifth in slugging percentage (.766) and sixth in home runs (13). Whitney Larsen ranks eighth in runs batted in (45). In the circle, Kelsi Dunne is first in batters truck out (227) and opposing batting average (.134). Dunne stays at second in ERA (1.12) and places third in wins (20).

Alabama holds a 26-18 series advantage over Florida, including an 11-7 record in Gainesville.

Next week Bama will finish its home schedule with a Wednesday game hosting UAB and the final home SEC series of the year against Kentucky next weekend. This season, Alabama is 20-0 at Rhoads Stadium.

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