Is Tide ‘Goliath' Of NCAA Tourney?

Winning teams concentrate on the job at hand; no looking ahead. For Alabama, that means doing everything to beat Tennessee-Martin when the Crimson Tide meets the Skyhawks in the first round of the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional Softball Tournament.

Alabama, champion of the Southeastern Conference, will meet U-T Martin champion of the Ohio Valley Conference, at 6 p.m. CDT at Rhoads Stadium in the double elimination tournament. The Tuscaloosa Regional opens at 3:30 p.m. with ACC champion Georgia Tech and Sun Belt champion South Alabama playing.

Even U-T Martin Coach Donley Canary has depicted his Jayhawks (39-20) going up against Bama (50-7), the overall second seed in the NCAA Tournament, as "kind of a David and Goliath match-up."

In an attempt to upset the Crimson Tide, UT Martin will go with its ace pitcher, Chelsea Jones.

Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy said Jones "is very good. She is 28-8. Obviously she is carrying the load."

Jones hasn't spent a lot of time scouting Bama hitters. "I probably don't know as much about Alabama's lineup as my catcher does," she said. "I usually leave all the hard thinking up to her.":

She also said she wouldn't be trying anything new against the powerful Crimson Tide hitters.

"As a senior, there's not much I can do except make sure my pitches are working," she said. "It's not like I can go out there and add a new pitch right before the end of my senior year. Basically, I just need to make sure all my pitches are working and go out there and give it my call."

Jones has a 2.21 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 250 innings.

Alabama has been led by three players in their surge to the SEC regular season and tournament titles in the past two weeks. In the past six games, Jennifer Fenton, Kaila Hunt, and Kayla Braud have led Alabama by batting over .400 and making several defensive plays. Fenton has batted .438 (7-for-16) with four stolen bases and seven runs scored. Hunt has batted .421 (8-for-19) with two home runs, seven runs batted in, and six runs scored, while Braud has batted .421 (8-for-19) and has hit two doubles and scored eight times while stealing five bases.

Alabama is nationally ranked in several offensive categories. Alabama is 12th overall with a .317 batting average. The Crimson Tide is second in home runs with 83 and is third with 1.58 home runs per game. Alabama is second in runs scored (409) and averages 7.18 runs per game, also good for third in the nation. The Tide has a .566 slugging percentage, which puts them fourth in the country. Alabama is fourth with 121 stolen bases, and their 2.12 stolen bases per game is ranked fifth

UTM is led by junior Leah Taylor, who is batting .387 (75-for-194) with seven home runs and 34 runs batted in. Taylor has also stolen 36 bases in 2012. Freshman Laura Smith leads the team with nine home runs and has driven in 35 runs on the year.

The Crimson Tide earned its 14th consecutive NCAA tournament bid in 2012. In just 16 years of existence, the Alabama softball program is about to play in its 14th NCAA Regional and has played in seven Super Regionals. The Tide has advanced to an NCAA Regional in every season under head coach Patrick Murphy. The Crimson Tide has a 54-28 record in NCAA tournament action (including regional (35-9), super regional (11-5) and World Series (8-14)) and has won nine NCAA Regional titles (2000, `03, `05, `06, `07, `08, `09, `10 and `11), including seven in a row and five Super Regional titles (2005, '06, '08, '09 and '11). This is the eighth consecutive year Alabama has been selected to host an NCAA Regional.

The winners of the two Friday games will face off at 1 p.m., on Saturday with the Friday losers squaring off at 3:30 p.m. The final elimination game will be at 6 p.m., Saturday. On Sunday, the championship game is set for 1 p.m. If necessary, a second game will follow at 3:30 p.m.

BamaMag Top Stories