Tide Softball Hosts LSU In Key Series

You may not know who the LSU softball coach is, but you know who it isn't. In a bit of drama at the end of last year, Alabama's longtime successful coach, Patrick Murphy, announced he was going to LSU.

Fortunately, at a celebration with Tigers partisans in Baton Rouge, Murphy came to his senses and announced he would stay at Alabama after all. Good thing for the Crimson Tide. Bama has great hitting, great pitching, and is ranked second in the nation.

The memory of Murphy's flirtation with LSU is inevitable this week as the Crimson Tide will host 21st ranked LSU in a Southeastern Conference series this weekend.

Alabama is second in the nation with 58 home runs, including 19 in the last 20 games. The Crimson Tide of Coach Patrick Murphy has homered in 32 of 36 games this year and has hit two or more home runs in 21 games. Sophomore Kaila Hunt leads the team with 14 home runs and 38 RBI – both career highs.

Sophomore Bama pitcher Jackie Traina has started off the season with 21 consecutive wins, which ties the Alabama school record held by Shelley Laird in 2001. Going back to last year, Traina has 23 consecutive wins, one short of the record of 24 consecutive victories held by Kelsi Dunne in 2010.

It was no huge surprise Monday when Bama's top home run hitter, Kaila Hunt, and the Tide's top pitcher, Traina, were named SEC Player and SEC Pitcher of the Week as Alabama won five league road games last week.

Alabama now has a 35-1 overall record and is second (to California) in both national college softball polls. Bama leads the SEC with a 12-1 mark. This week the Tide hosts LSU (28-8 overall and 10-1 in league games) at Rhoads Stadium. The series begins at 7 p.m. CDT Friday in a game that will be televised by ESPNU. The teams will meet at 1:30 Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Fox Sports South will televise the Sunday contest.

Alabama is on a very satisfying streak, having defeated Auburn in a midweek doublehader in Auburn last week, then going to Mississippi State and sweeping the Bulldogs in three games last weekend. In those five games the Tide outscored the opposition 27-13, batted .258, and had eight home runs. Hunt paced the Tide at the plate with a .438 (7-for-16) average, scoring a team high seven runs while leading Bama with four home runs and five RBI. Tide pitchers (mostly Traina, who had four wins and a save) had a 1.60 earned run average, held opposing batters to a .190 average, and struck out 38 in 35 innings.

LSU enters Tuscaloosa on a 12-game winning streak, beating Nicholls State, 6-1 on Wednesday and sweeping Arkansas last weekend. LSU is hitting at a .263 clip and has 10 home runs and 136 RBI. The Tigers have outscored their opponents 165-66. LSU is pitching at a 1.35 ERA and holding opponents to a meager .196 average.

Juliana Santos leads the team with a .346 average in 29 games played. Ashley Langonia has provided the punch with five home runs and 24 RBI while adding a .341 average and a team-high 29 runs scored.

In the circle, the duo of Rachele Fico and Brittany Mack return. Fico is 13-4 with an SEC leading 0.69 ERA and has struck out 109 in 111 2/3 innings pitched. Mack is 12-4 with a 1.89 ERA and has struck out 114 in 96 1/3 innings.

Alabama and LSU have faced off 61 times overall, with the Bayou Bengals holding a 34-27 advantage over the Tide. LSU is the only team in the conference with a winning record against Alabama. The two teams last met in April, with the Tigers sweeping the Tide in a three game series. The sweep was the first time that Alabama had been swept since 2004. Alabama lost the first two games in extra innings, dropping the first game, 2-1, in 14 innings and the second game, 3-1, in 10 innings. In the third game, Jackie Traina and Kelsi Dunne combined to pitch a no hitter, but the Tigers took advantage of walks and were able to earn the 2-0 win.

And, oh.

Beth Torina is in her first season as the LSU head coach. Torina came to Baton Rouge from FIU where she compiled a 129-111 record in four seasons.

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