Alabama Softball Has Title Chance

Although the Alabama softball team has stumbled at times this year, the Crimson Tide still has an outside chance to successfully defend its regular season Southeastern Conference championship.

Alabama will be in Oxford this weekend with a chance to take the regular season SEC title (though it will require help). Bama will return to Oxford the following week for the SEC Tournament, another title the Crimson Tide of Coach Patrick Murphy will be attempting to repeat.

This is the final weekend of regular season play. Alabama is in the thick of the SEC regular season title race as it enters the weekend series against Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide enters the week one game behind Tennessee for first. The Volunteers post a 20-5 record while the Tide sit at 16-6. Florida follows closely with an 18-7 league record. The Volunteers will head into Gainesville, Fla. this weekend to face the Gators. The champion will come from these two series.

For Bama to win the championship the Tide must sweep three games from the Rebels and have Florida win at least two games against Tennessee.

Alabama, ranked fifth in the nation, is at 42-7 overall and Mississippi is 14-36 overall and 3-20 in conference games.

The Tide and Rebels play at 5 p.m. CDT Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday. The Sunday game will be regionally televised by FoxSports.

The Ole Miss losing record this year, combined with Alabama's current RPI (number one in the nation), plus the all-time series (Alabama leads, 45-2) offer hope the Tide can get the three-game sweep and have a chance at the championship. Alabama was number one in RPI in the first week of the season. The Tide is one of six SEC teams in the top 25 in the RPI rankings. Fourteen teams that Alabama have on schedule this season are in the top 50 of the RPI.

Alabama would seemingly have had a chance to gain on the league lead last week hosting Kentucky, but that series was cancelled following the deadly tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa on April 27. The last time Alabama was in softball action was against then-No. 8 Florida. The Gators were able to come up with two straight late-game heroics to grab the series victory over the Tide, 2-1, in Gainesville, Fla., on the weekend of April 22-24. Alabama had won the first game, 5-0.

Over the last 10 games, Alabama junior Amanda Locke has produced in the middle of the lineup. Locke leads the team over that span with a .379 average, two home runs and seven RBI. Sophomore Kayla Braud follows Locke with a .342 batting average, six runs, 13 hits and four stolen bases. Freshman Jackie Traina isn't too far behind with a .296 clip and eight hits. In the circle, senior Kelsi Dunne sports a 3-2 record with a 1.53 ERA while fanning 59 in 50 1/3 innings. Traina is 2-3 with a 2.36 ERA while striking out 29 in 26 2/3 innings.

The Tide is amongst the elite in Division I softball in several categories. Alabama is third in both home runs (83) and home runs per game (1.69). The Crimson Tide ranks third in the NCAA in total stolen bases (113) due to Kayla Braud's team-leading 45 stolen bases. The Tide is fourth in slugging percentage (.567), and seventh in three categories: total runs (350), runs per game (7.14) and ERA (1.46). Overall, Alabama posts the sixth best record in NCAA Division I softball.

Several Crimson Tide softball players contribute to their team's success. Kayla Braud ties for the lead in the NCAA in stolen bases (45), 12th in runs per game (1.14) and ranks 20th in batting average (.439). Kelsi Dunne is third in hits allowed per seven innings (3.16), 10th in strikeouts per seven innings (10.4), 13th in ERA (1.22), 16th in shutouts (9) and 21st in strikeouts (246).

Alabama continues to stay hot at the plate during their 2011 campaign. The Crimson Tide is amongst the leaders in the Southeastern Conference in numerous statistical categories. Offensively, the Tide leads the circuit in stolen bases (113). Alabama ranks second in slugging percentage (.567) and home runs (83). The Tide comes in at third in runs scored (350) and runs batted in (322). In the circle, the Tide leads the circuit in ERA (1.46), opposing batting average (.168), strikeouts (432), hits allowed (191) and runs allowed (86).

Numerous Alabama individuals currently pace the league in several categories. Kayla Braud leads the SEC in stolen bases (45). Braud ranks third in hits (69), fourth in runs scored (56), fourth in batting average (.439) and fifth in on base percentage (.522). Jackie Traina comes in at seventh in slugging percentage (.730) and eighth in home runs (13). In the circle, Kelsi Dunne is first in batters struck out (246) and opposing batting average (.133). Dunne stays at third in both ERA (1.22) and wins (21).

Following the series against Ole Miss, Bama will head back to Oxford for the SEC Tournament May 12-14.

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