Tide Softball Goes For SEC Title

There's an adage in golf about closing out a victory, that if a player has only to two-putt, he's got a difficult job. It is not easy to do less than one's best. In a sense, the Alabama softball team finds itself in this position of having to do less than its best to have great success.

Alabama has already clinched at least a share of the Southeastern Conference regular season championship. The Crimson Tide has a three-game lead over Missouri and Tennessee with three games to play in the SEC regular season. Thus, Bama has the proverbial "magic number of one," Alabama having to win only one game to wrap up the crown by itself.

The Tide of Coach Patrick Murphy is no stranger to the throne. Bama has won five SEC titles, including four in the last five seasons. Alabama's first championship came in 2006 and the Tide won three straight from 2010-2012.

As it turns out, Alabama finishes the season against one of the teams mathematically eligible to share the championship with the Tide. Bama is scheduled to play at Missouri with games at 7 p.m. CDT Thursday (ESPN), 6:30 p.m. Friday, and 1 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU) to close out regular season play.

While the immediate gain is the SEC championship, Alabama does have more to play for. One win will make Bama the top seed for the SEC Tournament. Beyond that, Alabama is in contention for the national championship.

Alabama is 42-9 this year, including 17-4 in SEC games. Last week Bama was ranked seventh in both national softball polls and the Tide's RPI is second in the nation. This is the 15th consecutive year for Alabama to record at least 40 victories.

Missouri is ranked 15th in one poll, 17th in another.

Here are Alabama's nominees for SEC pitcher, player, and freshman of the week:

Pitcher of the Week nominee is senior Jacyln Traina of Naples, Fla., who went 2-0 against Georgia with two complete game victories. She allowed just three earned runs in the 14 innings and had 17 strikeouts. Traina has earned a win in 16 of her last 17 starts, with the only non-win coming in a no-decision against Mississippi State on April 13. She has not lost a game since falling to McNeese on Feb. 23 and is a perfect 13-0 in SEC play with a 1.42 ERA.

Saturday's win over Georgia was Traina's 99th career win, putting her one win shy of becoming the third player in Alabama history with 100 career wins. She trails Shelley Laird (115 in 1999-02) and Kelsi Dunne (113 in 2008-11) in the Alabama record book.

Player of the Week nominee is Haylie McCleney, sophomore outfielder from Morris, who had five hits, extending her hitting streak to eight games and her on-base streak to 20 games. She has reached base safely in all but one of her 50 starts this season. McCleney leads the SEC in batting average (.453) and on-base percentage (.583) this season.

Freshman of the Week nominee Marisa Runyon, a freshman from Myrtle Beach, S.C., had just two hits last week, but both of them were home runs. She hit a three-run homer in the 12-0 win over Southern Miss and a two-run shot in game three against Georgia. She has three home runs this season and all three have come in the last two weeks, hitting her first against Georgia Southern on April 18. Two of the three home runs were as a pinch-hitter.

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