Tide Softball Back To SEC Action

Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban is known for pointing out almost immediately after the end of one season that the team taking the field the next season is not the same. He wasn't the only national championship coach at Bama in 2011-12 making that point.

Alabama Softball Coach Patrick Murphy knew that he would be reloading, too, following the Crimson Tide's national championship last spring. Two newcomers have certainly done their parts to help Bama to a 38-6 record this year.

Alabama freshman Haylie McCleney has continued her torrid start to her freshman campaign by batting .700 (7-for-10) in the last five games. The rookie has walked nine times to sport an .842 on base percentage and has scored seven runs, driven in four, and stolen three bases over that span. Junior Molly Fichtner has also stayed hot, hitting .643 (9-for-14) with two doubles, a home run and team-high eight RBI, and has also taken over the critical position of catcher. As a team, the Tide is hitting .390 and outscored its opponents, 48-20, over the last five games.

Alabama had an open weekend last week, but is back into Southeastern Conference compeition this weekend, hosting Mississippi State in games today through Sunday at Rhoads Stadium. Bama, ranked fourth in the nation, is 10-5 in SEC games. The Bulldogs, coached by former Tide assistant coach Vann Stuedeman, are on the upswing. State is 28-1s4 overall and after a sweep of Ole Miss last week has improved to 6-9 in the conference.

First pitch tonight is at 6:30 CDT. The teams will meet at 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. The Sunday game will be televised by Fox Sports South.

The Tide will be hosting its annual Power of Pink game on Saturday.

The Bulldogs are hitting .279 and have outscored their opponents, 198-123. MSU has hit 39 home runs and stolen 94 bases. In the circle the Bulldogs sport a 2.45 ERA and have held opponents to a .179 average while striking out 370 in 282 2/3 innings. Individually Sam Lenahan leads the team with a .370 average, adding 12 doubles, nine home runs and 37 RBI. In the circle, Alison Owen is 15-6 with a 1.73 ERA.

The Tide and State have met 57 times with Alabama holding a commanding, 50-7, advantage, including a winning streak of 27 games against its league rival to the west. The Tide sports a 24-2 record against the Bulldogs in Tuscaloosa and has not lost in the series since April 10, 2004.

Senior Kayla Braud is batting .438 with 13 runs and five stolen bases over her career against the Bulldogs while junior Jackie Traina is 4-0 with a 1.84 ERA. The two teams last met in the SEC Tournament in Tuscaloosa last season where the Tide won, 5-2. Traina struck out eight and allowed two runs on five hits while Kaila Hunt drove in three.

The Crimson Tide has collected a 20-3 home record so far in the 2013 season. Alabama has outscored opponents, 198-52. With a .368 average, the Tide has belted out 24 home runs in Rhoads Stadium accompanied by 64 stolen bases. In the circle Alabama has a 1.77 ERA, striking out 143 batters while keeping opponents to a .196 average. Freshman Haylie McCleney leads the home bats with a .508 average, 29 runs and 31 hits. McCleney also has contributed 22 RBI and stolen 14 bases. Junior Jackie Traina (8-1) leads Bama's hurlers with a 1.84 ERA, striking out 67 batters in 61 innings and allowing only 18 runs on 43 hits.

The Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced that four Alabama players were among the Top 25 finalists for the 2013 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. Senior Kayla Braud, juniors Kaila Hunt and Jackie Traina, and freshman Haylie McCleney were tabbed finalists to give the Tide a nation-leading four selections.

Next week, Alabama will head to Baton Rouge for a key SEC series against LSU. The two 2012 Women's College World Series participants will face off, beginning on Thursday. The rare Thursday night affair will be televised by ESPN2 at 7 p.m. CDT.

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