Tide Softball Hosts Stanford Thursday

Alabama will host Stanford in the NCAA Tuscaloosa Super Regional beginning with the first game at 7 p.m. CDT Thursday at Rhoads Stadium. The best-of-three series winner goes to Oklahoma City next week for the eight-team Women's College World Series.

Weather could be a factor Thursday with about a 50 per cent chance of rain and possible thunderstorms through the early evening hours.

ESPN will televise Thursday's game. Friday's game begins at 3:30 p.m. CDT. If a third game is necessary it will be at 6 p.m. Friday.

The Crimson Tide of Coach Patrick Murphy is 49-8, while the Cardinal of Coach John Rittman is 41-15. Alabama is the overall number two seed in the tournament, Stanford 15.

Bama is 23-0 in Rhoads Stadium this year.

Alabama and Stanford have met five times with the Crimson Tide holding a 3-2 advantage. The last time the teams met was in the 2006 Tuscaloosa Super Regional, the first year Alabama hosted under the then-new super regional format. The Tide took the best of three series in two games, winning 4-1 and 8-7 in eight innings.

Bama earned its 13th consecutive NCAA tournament bid this year. In just 15 years of existence, the Alabama softball program played in its 13th NCAA Regional this past weekend. The Tide has advanced to an NCAA Regional in every season under Murphy. Bama has a 44-13 record in NCAA Regional action (including regional (35-9) and super regional (9-4)) and have won nine NCAA Regional titles (2000, `03, `05, `06, `07, '08, '09, `10 and ‘11), including seven in a row. It is the seventh consecutive year Alabama has been selected to host an NCAA Regional. The Tide is 28-3 in regional games played at Rhoads Stadium, including a winning streak of 16 games (not including super regional play).

Alabama has won four super regional series ('05, '06, '08 and '09). The super regional in Tuscaloosa will mark the fifth time Alabama has hosted the series. The Tide holds a 7-3 mark at home with the only series loss at Rhoads Stadium coming last season against Hawaii.

Senior shortstop Whitney Larsen has been very hot at the plate recently. In post-season play – Southeastern Conference Tournament and NCAA Regional – she has a .625 batting average, .667 on-base percentage, and 1.125 slugging number. In her 16 postseason at bats the Vestavia Hills native has 10 hits, including three doubles, a triple and a home run, with 13 runs batted in. Larsen has yet to strike out in post-season play. Helping the senior's cause, the women in front of her have been getting on base. Kayla Braud and Jennifer Fenton both have postseason batting averages over .430 and on-base percentages at or over .500 with 11 stolen bases between them.

For the season, Braud leads the Tide with a .437 average, followed by Larsen at .359, freshman Jackie Traina at .355, and Fenton at .342.

The Alabama pitching staff has tallied five no-hitters this year. Senior Kelsi Dunne has accounted for three, Traina one, and two combined for the fifth. The five no-hitters in a single season equaled the most in school history as Dunne accounted for four of the five in 2009. For the year, Dunne has a 26-3 record and 1.14 earned run average and Traina an 18-5 mark, 1.31 ERA.

The Cardinal are led at the plate by a trio of All-Pacific 10 Conference selections, typically their 1-2-3 hitters in Ashley Hansen, Sarah Hassman and Jenna Rich. Hansen led the star-studded PAC-10 in batting average (.500), slugging percentage (.815) and on-base percentage (.562). The junior from Chandler, Ariz., had a conference best 25 doubles and 150 total bases, while adding in three triples and 45 RBI. Hassman led the PAC-10 in stolen bases with 34 in just 37 attempts. The junior from Cupertino, Calif., hit .395. Rich, a sophomore from El Segundo, Calif., led Stanford in home runs with 10 and runs batted in with 49.

Top Stanford pitchers are sophomore Teagan Gerhart (yes, the sister of former Stanford football star Toby Gerhart) with a 25-11 record and 1.68 ERA and senior Ashley Chinn with a 16-4 record and 2.02 ERA.

Thus far this season, Alabama has outscored its opponents by 419-96. Stanford has a scoring advantage of 290-129.

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