Alabama Softball Tournament-Tested

The Alabama softball team is tournament tested in more ways than one. The Crimson Tide played a number of tournaments early in the season, including three in Tuscaloosa. In the last couple of weeks the Crimson Tide has cruised to the Southeastern Conference and NCAA Regional tournament championships.

This week Alabama is playing in the NCAA Super Regional, and for the sixth time this year in tournament play, the Crimson Tide is on its home diamond at Rhoads Stadium.

Beginning Thursday, the number two national seed Crimson Tide will host Michigan in the best-of-three NCAA Tuscaloosa Super Regional. Alabama is 53-7, while the Wolverines are 42-15.

First pitch of the opening game will be at 7 p.m. CDT Thursday and will be telecast by ESPN2. On Friday the teams will meet at 1:30 p.m. with ESPNU televising the game. If game three is necessary, it is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Friday and will be broadcast by ESPN2.

The winner of the series will advance to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City. This is the fifth straight year that Alabama has hosted a Super Regional.

Alabama is coming off a successful NCAA Regional in Tuscaloosa in which the Tide went 3-0 in the double elimination tournament. Prior to that, Bama hosted the Southeastern Conference Tournament and went undefeated in that double elimination tournament. Alabama also won the SEC regular season championship for the third consecutive year.

Indeed, it's almost as though Bama had another home field tournament. On the final weekend of SEC regular season play, the Tide had to win at least two games against Florida to win the regular season championship.

Alabama has been led during the postseason by two of its senior leaders in Jennifer Fenton and Cassie Reilly-Boccia. In Alabama's six postseason wins, Fenton leads the team with a .667 (12-for-18) batting average, with four runs batted in, nine runs scored, eight stolen bases and has slugged at a .778 clip. Fellow senior, Reilly-Boccia has batted .529 (9-for-17) and has driven in four runs.

The Wolverines made their way into the Super Regional by winning the Louisville Regional.

According to Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy, Michigan is coached by a hall of fame talent in Carol Hutchins, who has led her teams to a 1,251-422-4 record in 28 seasons at the helm of the Michigan program.

On the field, senior infielder Amy Chidester leads UM with a .351 (60-for-171) batting average with nine home runs and 45 runs batted in. Junior Ashley Lane has hit 11 home runs with 39 RBI on the year. Michigan is led in the circle by freshman pitcher Haylie Wagner, who is 32-5, including victories in all three regional games. The 32 wins is a school record for a freshman. Wagner has posted a 1.46 ERA and has 153 strikeouts in 239 innings of work.

Michigan has a 7-4 advantage in its all-time history against Bama, including two wins in 2010.

This year's Alabama team has faced off against 18 teams in the NCAA Tournament and has posted a 36-5 record, winning eight series against the SEC schools that made the tournament (out of nine). Kaila Hunt is batting .328 (39-for-119) with 12 home runs and 48 runs batted in in 39 games against tournament-bound foes. Kayla Braud and Jennifer Fenton have combined to steal 51 bases against those teams. Jackie Traina is 27-2 with 243 strikeouts and a 1.74 ERA against NCAA Tournament teams. Alabama, as a team, has hit 57 home runs and driven in 243 runs against tournament-bound teams, while their pitchers have thrown 313 strikeouts and had a 1.98 ERA against the 18 teams.

With the victory over Florida in the SEC Tournament Championship Game, Alabama reached the 50-win mark for the 10th time in its history. UA has won 50 or more games in eight straight seasons, which is the longest streak in SEC history. The 10 50-win seasons are also the most in SEC history.

The Tide earned its 14th consecutive NCAA tournament bid this year. In just 16 years of existence, Alabama softball program played in its 14th NCAA Regional and is set to play in its eighth Super Regional. The Tide has advanced to an NCAA Regional in every season under Murphy. Bama has a 57-28 record in NCAA tournament action (regional 38-9; super regional 11-5; and World Series (8-14) and has won 10 NCAA Regional titles (2000, `03, `05, `06, `07, `08, `09, `10, `11 and `12 ), including eight 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.

Since the NCAA Division I Tournament shifted to the current Super Regional format in 2005, the only two teams to advance to the newly created round each year have been Alabama and the University of Arizona. The Crimson Tide and the Wildcats have now advanced to an NCAA record eight consecutive Super Regionals.

With a Super Regional Championship this weekend, Alabama would punch its eighth ticket to Oklahoma City in the last 12 years. Since the turn of the millennium, Alabama has appeared in more Women's College World Series than any program outside the Pacific-12 Conference and with a trip this year would tie UCLA on that list with eight appearances since 2000, trailing only Arizona at 10.

Alabama has one of the most experienced squads in the country. The Crimson Tide boasts six seniors that have combined to find time in 1,213 games and start 984 times. Five of the six seniors have started more than 150 games in their careers and four of the seniors have eclipsed the 200-games played mark. Cassie Reilly-Boccia leads the senior class with 249 games played and 236 starts. The seniors also boast the best winning percentage over their careers than any other team in the country at .845 (212-39).

Alabama is nationally ranked in several offensive categories. Alabama is 11th overall with a .318 batting average. The Crimson Tide is second in home runs with 92 and is third with 1.53 home runs per game. Alabama is second in runs scored (425) and averages 7.08 runs per game, also good for second in the nation. The Tide has a .562 slugging percentage, which puts them fifth in the country. Alabama is third with 132 stolen bases, and their 2.20 stolen bases per game is ranked fifth overall.

Jennifer Fenton is 16th in the country in scoring per game (1.03) and ranks sixth in stolen bases per game (.73). Kayla Braud is ninth in stolen bases per game (.67). Sophomore Kaila Hunt is tied for 12th in the nation in home runs (19) while teammate Amanda Locke is tied for 24th. Hunt is also 14th in home runs per game (.34). Hunt's 70 runs batted in are good for fourth overall, and she is fifth in runs batted in per game (1.23). Jackie Traina is 11th in strikeouts (301) and is 13th in strikeouts

The Tide has outscored its opponents 425-153, including a 103-22 advantage in the first inning. UA is averaging 7.08 runs per game and 8.2 hits per contest. Kayla Braud and Jennifer Fenton are averaging just over a run per game, while Amanda Locke is driving in nearly a run per game, and Kaila Hunt is averaging more than one run batted in per game. In the circle Jackie Traina is averaging 8.14 strikeouts per contest.

Hunt leads the conference with 19 home runs and senior Amanda Locke is right behind her with 17, the most by any two players on a team in Alabama history since 1998. The most home runs by any two players in Alabama's history were 40, set by All-American Kelly Kretschman (25) and Carrie Moreman (15). The 19 home runs by Hunt is the second most in a single season in school history, tied with Charlotte Morgan in 2008.

Hunt reached 70 RBI this past weekend to become just the second player in school history to meet that milestone. Only Charlotte Morgan (79, 2008 & 74, 2010) has totaled 70 or more in an Alabama uniform.

Alabama sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina became just the fourth pitcher in school history with 300 or more strikeouts, joining Kelsi Dunne, Shelley Laird and UA pitching coach Stephanie VanBrakle. Dunne holds the single season mark with 355. Traina also sports 35 wins, which are the second most in a single season in school history, just three back of the 38 set by Laird in 2000.

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