Streaking Alabama Goes To Florida

Alabama softball is in a good place in the Southeastern Conference and the Crimson Tide's national ranking is trending well. But there is a pitfall just ahead for Bama.

Alabama is one of two undefeated teams in SEC play at 6-0. The other is Georgia at 3-0. Moreover, the Crimson Tide of Coach Patrick Murphy moved up two spots to No. 7 in the Softball poll and was one position higher this week at No. 9 in the USA Today/NFCA poll.

With seven straight wins including SEC sweeps of South Carolina and Ole Miss, Alabama is 24-4 overall. The Crimson Tide will host Georgia State at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Rhoads Stadium, but the big test comes this weekend. Alabama goes to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators.

Although Florida has lost two SEC games this year and is 4-2 in conference play, the Gators are 28-2 overall. Before losing in the league, Florida was a near-unanimous number one in both national polls. And as evidence of how strong the Gators are, even with the losses Florida is still number one in the USA Today poll (getting 23 of 32 first place votes) and fell to only No. 2 in the ESPN rankings.

Alabama and Florida will play at 6 p.m. EDT (5 p.m. central) Friday and at 1 p.m./noon on Saturday and Sunday.

UCLA, which swept Arizona (a team that defeated Alabama twice in Phoenix earlier this year), moved into first place in one poll and second in the other. Tennessee dropped a spot to third.

A good sign for Bama as the Tide heads to Gainesville is the rejuvenation of senior pitcher Jaclyn Traina. Triana, a native of Naples, Fla., went 2-0 over the weekend, allowing just three earned runs over 13 1/3 inningswith 18 strikeouts. She has thrown 27 strikeouts in SEC play, which is second in the conference just behind Mississippi State's Allison Owen (29).

Hitting does not appear to be a problem for the Tide. Six different Alabama players hit a home run over the weekend: Haylie McCleney, Molly Fichtner, Leona Lafaele, Kaila Hunt, Jadyn Spencer and Peyton Grantham. Alabama's four home runs in Sunday's win in a sweep of Ole Miss in Oxford is tied for the most in a game this season.

Here are the women getting the job done with a bat:

Sophomore outfielder Haylie McCleney hit .700 (7-10) over the weekend, getting a hit in each game to stretch her hitting streak to a career-high 14 games. She has reached base in every game and leads the SEC with a .558 (43-77) batting average.

Senior infielder Kaila Hunt had two hits over the weekend, including a two-run homer in Sunday's win. The home run pushes her career total to 53, just one away from tying Amanda Locke (2008-12) for third all-time and eight away from surpassing Kelly Kretschman's (1998-01) school record of 60. Her two RBI pushes her career total to 195, as she is only five away from becoming just the second player in school history to have 200 (Charlotte Morgan, 264, 2007-10).

Senior catcher Molly Fichtner hit .600 (6-10) over the weekend with two doubles, a home run, and four RBI. She has a hit in every conference game this season. She is batting .667 (12-16) in conference play, which leads the SEC in league games.

Coach Patrick Murphy is now 813-217 (.789) overall and 329-102 (.763) in SEC play in his 16th season as Alabama's head coach.

Eight teams in the SEC are ranked in both polls this week, the most of any conference: Florida (1/2), Tennessee (4/3), Kentucky (8/10), Alabama (9/7), Georgia (14/14), Texas A&M (15/18), Missouri (18/20), and Auburn (21/21). LSU is receiving votes in both polls while Arkansas is receiving votes in the USA Today poll.

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