Tide Softball Next Plays In Chapel Hill
This weekend, Alabama (37-8 and ranked sixth and seventh in the national polls) gets a break from SEC play with three non-conference games in Chapel Hill, N.C. On Friday the Crimson Tide will play Georgia Southern (30-14) at 2:30 p.m. CDT followed by North Carolina at 5 p.m. CDT. On Saturday Alabama and UNC will meet for a second game at 11 a.m. CDT.
With 310 career at-bats, sophomore Haylie McCleney now meets the minimum requirements to be included in the career records at Alabama and she has made quite a splash in her debut. Her .471 career batting average (146-310) is currently the best in school history, better than Kayla Braud's career .438 average (344-786) that became a new school record last season that surpassed Kelly Kretschman's career average of .437 (368-842) by just one point. McCleney's career .568 on-base percentage also is currently a school record, besting Kretschman's .533 percentage. McCleney owns a .964 stolen base percentage (54-56), tying Jennifer Fenton at the top of the list, and McCleney also ranks third with a career slugging percentage of .694.
Last Friday's win over Mississippi State gave senior Jaclyn Traina her 96th career win, putting her just one win shy of tying current pitching coach and former Tide All-America Stephanie VanBrakle (2003-06) at third all-time in the Alabama records. Traina and VanBrakle are two of only four Alabama pitchers to earn over 70 wins in the circle, trailing Kelsi Dunne (113, 2008-11) and Shelley Laird (115, 1999-02). Traina is only one win shy of VanBrakle's mark, but has reached it in 68 fewer innings, throwing just 776 career innings to VanBrakle's 844. Traina also has 15 fewer career appearances (144) and nine fewer starts (116) than VanBrakle (159/125).
Alabama's first opponent Friday, Georgia Southern is 30-14, including a 12-3 record in Southern Conference games. The Eagles are 0-3 against SEC opponents this season, falling twice to Tennessee and once to Georgia. Senior pitcher Sarah Purvis (16-8, 1.75 ERA) continues to anchor the rotation, throwing 210 strikeouts over 156 1/3 innings as she ranks among the top 15 nationally in strikeout average. Junior Brooke Red (12-4, 2.24 ERA) has also thrown triple-digit innings, striking out 109 over 103 1/3 innings. Offensively, the team is led by senior Kourtny Thomas with 48 hits, a .372 average, 13 home runs, and 44 RBI.
Alabama is undefeated all-time against Georgia Southern, winning all four games against the Eagles. This will be the second-straight season the two teams have played, as Alabama defeated Georgia Southern 2-1 over nine innings at last season's FGCU Tournament. Prior to 2013, the most recent meeting between the teams was a doubleheader at the Bama Bash during the 2005 season, where Alabama won 8-4 and 6-0.
North Carolina is 22-22 this year, including a 13-9 ACC record. The Tar Heels have four players hitting above .300, led by sophomore Aquilla Mateen at .385 with a team-leading 52 hits and 16 stolen bases. Sophomore Kristen Brown and junior Amber Parrish are tied for the team lead with 12 home runs each, combining for 77 RBI. Senior Lori Spingola (16-11, 3.13 ERA) has received the lion's share of work in the circle, throwing 158 2/3 of the teams 289 2/3 innings, striking out 133 with 44 walks and 160 hits allowed.
Alabama has won all seven previous meetings against North Carolina. Most recently, the Crimson Tide won two games against the Tar Heels in 2011 at the Easton Challenge in Tuscaloosa, 3-0 and 10-1. Over the all-time series, Alabama has outscored UNC 45-3, winning four of the seven meetings in less than seven innings. This will be the latest during the year that the two teams have met as all the prior matchups have come in February or March.
This is Alabama's first appearance in Chapel Hill since 2000.
On Tuesday, April 22, Alabama will head to Hattiesburg, Miss., to play Southern Miss (20-23) at 6 p.m. CDT. Starting on Thursday, April 24, the Tide will play a three-game series at Rhoads Stadium against the Georgia Bulldogs (36-8, 9-6 SEC). Friday's game will be broadcast on ESPN at 7 p.m. CDT and Saturday's game will be broadcast on ESPNU (11 a.m. CDT).
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