Top-Ranked Tide Softball Heads South

Alabama softball is national. The Crimson Tide, winner of the national championship last spring and ranked first in the nation in the start of the 2013 season, can recruit nationwide. Bama has players from Oregon and California on the West Coast, from Iowa up north, Indiana, and South Carolina. The Tide has two each from Missouri, Georgia, and Texas. There are four in-state players.

And there also are four Alabama softball players from Florida.

Alabama opened the season in icy Northern Iowa last week, and this week the Crimson Tide heads to the Sunshine State. That means that four members of the Crimson Tide will be headed to their home state as Bama goes to Fort Myers for a tournament hosted by Florida Gulf Coast University.

Juniors Jackie Traina and Ryan Iamurri are from Naples, while Keima Davis is from Deerfield Beach, and Lauren Sewell prepped at Pembroke Pines. All four earned All-America honors during their high school careers.

Alabama is 5-0 after zipping through the tournament in Cedar Falls, Iowa, last week. The Crimson Tide of Coach Patrick Murphy remains atop the USA Today Coaches Poll, but Bama fell to second behind 5-0 Oklahoma in the ESPN/USA Softball rankings.

Alabama will open tournament play in Fort Myers against Appalachian State at 12:30 CST Friday. Also in the tournament are Wichita State, Georgia Southern, and Southern Illinois.

Bama had been scheduled to open its home season against South Alabama Tuesday, but heavy rains washed out the game. It has not yet been rescheduled. Next Tuesday the Tide will play its first game in-state, playing at UAB at 6 p.m. CST. Alabama will play in Tuscaloosa in the Easton Bama Bash against Western Illinois on Feb. 22. The Tide will also play against Iowa and Winthrop in the tournament, Feb. 22-24.

Alabama was impressive in Iowa. Playing in the Northern Iowa Dome in Cedar Falls, the Tide earned five wins by out-scoring opponents 43-12 and scoring eight or more runs in four of the five games. Bama had a team batting average of .384, smashed nine home runs, and stole 20 bases. Alabama pitchers allowed only 2.12 runs per game and a composite batting average of only .230 and struck out 38 in 33 innings.

One of the Florida women, pitcher Lauren Sewell, was back in action in Iowa. She had missed most of last season with a knee injury. She had two appearances in the opening weekend and has a 1.83 earned run average.

Although Alabama has outstanding veterans such as Traina, Kayla Braugh, and Kayla Hunt, it was hard to overlook the play of the rookies in Iowa.

Freshman outfielder Haylie McCleney of Morris was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week as she batted .722 (13-18) in the five games. She had nine runs, four RBI, two doubles, a triple, two home runs, two walks, and five stolen bases. She reached base three or more times in each contest and had three hits in four of the five games. She also scored at least one run in every game and stole one base or more in four of the games.

The four freshmen who played at Northern Iola combined to hit .622 (23-37) with 11 stolen bases and 17 runs. Andrea Hawkins batted .857 (6-7) with five runs, one RBI, and five stolen bases. Kallie Case hit .500 (4-for-8) with three runs and a stolen base.

After the first week of season play the Alabama softball team ranks high in most categories in the SEC. With a team total of 20 stolen bases Alabama takes first in the SEC for stolen bases and stolen bases attempted having not been thrown out once. Alabama also is at the top of the total base category with 89. Alabama takes second after the first week in total hits with 53. The Tide comes in third in the conference with a .384 team batting average, putting up 43 total runs as well as 39 RBI. The pitching effort by the Tide takes third in total batters struck out with 38 and batters struck out looking with 12.

McCleney led the SEC in hits with 13 and total bases with 23 and was second in batting average (.722), slugging percentage (1.278), and tied for second in stolen bases with Hawkins with five. McCleney's .750 on base percentage earns her third in the conference. Senior Kayla Braud is ranks first in stolen bases with six while senior Keima Davis is ranked first in RBI with 11 and second in home runs with three. After the first week, junior Jackie Traina is first in the SEC in batters struck out with 24 and second in batters struck out looking with seven.

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