Showdown looms for SEC title

With all the off-season workouts finished, fall tournaments completed, pre-season early morning weights behind them, 27 conference games in the books, it all comes down to a three-game series between the 17th ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (40-17, 21-6 SEC) and the 8th ranked Georgia Bulldogs (52-9, 21-5).

For both teams, it is simple. The first one to claim two victories will be crowned the 2003 Southeastern Conference Champion.

The Crimson Tide travels to Athens, Georgia this weekend for the biggest three-game series in the histories of both programs, beginning with a 1 p.m. (ET) doubleheader on Saturday and a televised 2 p.m. (ET) game on FOX Sports Net on Sunday.

The two clubs are evenly matched as they rank one and two in the SEC in virtually every category. However, the Crimson Tide does the lead the all-time series between the two schools 11-3, including a two games to one series victory in Tuscaloosa last season.

But that is all in the past. This year the Bulldogs were voted by SEC coaches to win the SEC Eastern Division title and a few select coaches even predicted the Bulldogs to win the SEC Championship. So far Georgia has not disappointed posting a league best 52-9 record while ranking eighth in the country with a .311 batting average and fifth in the United States with a 0.85 ERA.

Georgia is led by junior All-American Nicole Barber who leads the country with a 1.07 stolen bases per game average and boasts a .416 batting average. Michelle Green leads the Bulldog pitching staff with the 12th best ERA in the nation at 0.86, while Lacey Gardner, who does not have as many innings, is just in front of Green at 11th nationally with a 0.79 ERA.

The Crimson Tide will combat the Georgia staff with All-Americans Ashley Courtney and Jackie McClain. McClain leads the Tide with a .368 average, seven home runs and 44 RBIs, while Courtney is the team leader with 63 hits and 36 runs scored.

The Crimson Tide pitching staff is a pitch-by-committee operation, with freshman Stephanie VanBrakle (14-4) leading the way with a 1.46 ERA and 150 strikeouts in only 119.2 innings pitched. Junior Erin Wright (18-5) leads the staff with 18 wins and has 149 strikeouts in exactly 149.0 innings of work.

Fans in Tuscaloosa will be able to listen to all three games live on WVUA 90.7 FM. There will also be live stats available at www.rolltide.com for the entire series.


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