Weather Forecast Forces Changes
There's no snow in the forecast this weekend as Alabama's softball team, ranked number one in the nation, prepares to host the Alabama Invite at Rhoads Stadium. There is, however, the possibility of inclement weather – thunderstorms, even – on Friday night, so the first day schedule has been adjusted with earlier first pitch times.
The tournament will open at 11 a.m. CDT Friday with Maryland facing Massachusetts. Alabama will play Maryland at 1:30 p.m. The final game of the day Friday will begin at 4 p.m. as UMass takes on UAB.
All other game times remain the same. The Tide will play a doubleheader on Saturday, facing off against Massachusetts at 1:30 p.m., and Maryland at 4 p.m. Alabama will finish off tournament play against UAB on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
This is Alabama's second tournament home weekend. The Tide ran its record to 13-0 with five victories in winning last weekend's Bama Bash.
Alabama has started the season with at least 10 straight wins for the eighth time in school history. With the five wins at the Bama Bash, Alabama is 62-7 all-time at the tournament.
Fans will be watching the usual suspects this weekend, and particularly unior Kayla Braud. Braud led Alabama to six wins over the week by setting the table atop the lineup. The two-time All-America led the Crimson Tide with a .583 average, seven hits, six runs, six walks, five stolen bases and a .722 on base percentage. The Eugene, Ore., native tallied two or more hits in three of the six games on the week and scored two or more runs twice. She walked in four of the six games and stole at least one base in three of the games, including swiping three and walking three times against UAB. At the Bama Bash, Braud batted a team-high .545 and was named to the all-tournament team. Braud leads the team with a .513 (16-for-31) batting average and 15 stolen bases.
The Terrapins enter the weekend with a 10-2 record after going 4-1 in the ESPN Citrus Classic in Kissemmee, Fla., this past weekend. Maryland opened tournament play with a 12-8 victory over Southern Illinois and a 10-2 win over Marshall. The Terrapins then lost, 11-3, to St. John's, but bounced back to knock off Wisconsin, 4-3. Maryland concluded tournament play with a 2-1 victory over Marshall. Sophomore first baseman/outfielder Candice Beards leads the team with a .385 (10-for-26) batting average with a home run and five runs batted in. Junior infielder/outfielder Nikki Maier leads the Terrapins with two home runs and has knocked in five runs as well. Senior pitcher Kendra Knight leads the team with a 7-0 record in the circle, with a 1.72 ERA and 56 strikeouts on the year. The Terrapins return seven starters from last season's 40-19 team, which culminated in their second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. Maryland is led by Coach Laura Watten, who in her seven seasons as coach of UM has posted a record of 214-147. In her fifteen years as a coach she has compiled a record of 536-354.
The Minutewomen of UMass are coming off of an up and down weekend at the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Clearwater, Fla. UMass went 2-3 last weekend, with upset victories over No. 12 Michigan and No. 17 Georgia Tech, both by 1-0 scores. Senior pitcher Sara Plourde pitched her 10th career no-hitter in the win over Georgia Tech. UMass opened the weekend with an 8-0 loss to DePaul. They followed up the Georgia Tech win with a 4-2 loss to Illinois, and closed the weekend with a 5-0 loss to No. 9 Tennessee to even their overall record at 5-5. UMass is led at the plate by junior outfielder Cyndil Matthew, who is hitting .393 (11-for-28) and is a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen bases on the year. Senior catcher/infielder Stephanie Mayne and sophomore infielder Tiffany Meeks lead the team with two home runs apiece. Plourde has gone 4-4 with 83 strikeouts and a 2.17 ERA in the circle for UMass, being named the A-10 Pitcher of the Week twice this season. The Minutewomen return eight starters and 15 letterwinners from last season's 29-19 squad. UMass is led by Coach Elaine Sortino, who has gone 1,134-475-6 in 33 seasons in charge of the program.
UAB enters the Alabama Invite with a 7-6 record after sweeping a doubleheader on Tuesday against Kennesaw State. The Blazers won Game one, 6-1, then followed up with a 4-0 victory in the second game. As a team, UAB is hitting .243 and has posted a 2.75 ERA. Senior catcher Mandy Lowman leads UAB with a .400 (12-for-30) average, with three home runs and eight runs batted in. Sophomore infielder Kristen McGrath leads the Blazers with four home runs, in addition to batting .306 (11-for-36). UAB has had four pitchers record victories this season, with three pitchers posting two wins apiece. Junior Lauren Webster leads the way with a 2-0 record. Sophomore Leigh Streetman has had the most starts for UAB, going 2-2 in her nine appearances, with 38 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings with a 3.00 ERA. UAB returns 15 letterwinners and seven starters to a team that finished 39-19 overall and third in C-USA with a 17-6 record. Head coach Marla Townsend is in her 14th season and has posted a 350-361 record.
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