That has led to Alabama hosting regional tournaments, which the Crimson Tide will do for the 10th consecutive year beginning Friday.
Even though Bama is a No. 2 seed, the Tide did not get an easy draw in the 64-team tournament. The Tuscaloosa Regional includes three ranked teams and three pitchers ranked in the top six in the nation. The ranked teams are No. 5 Alabama, No. 22 South Alabama, and No. 23 South Carolina Upstate.
The NCAA Regional Tournament at Rhoads Stadium will begin at 3:30 p.m. Friday when with South Alabama meeting USC Upstate. The second game at 6 p.m. will have Alabama going against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. The tournament is double elimination.
Friday winners meet at 1 p.m. CDT Saturday and Friday losers play at 3:30 Saturday. The winner in that second game plays the loser from the early game for the final spot in Sunday's finals, which begin at 1 p.m. A second game Sunday, if necessary, would begin at 3:30.
The lofty ranking and high seed notwithstanding, Alabama is coming into the NCAA Tournament off a disappointing loss in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. After winning the SEC regular season, Bama was a 5-3 loser to eventual champion Georgia in the semifinals. Alabama did win one game in the tournament, defeating Auburn, 8-4.
Alabama goes into national championship tournament play with a 45-11 record. Bama finished the SEC season with a 19-5 mark. The Tide continues to be ranked fifth by ESPN.com/USA Softball and sixth by USA Today/NFCA.
Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Alabama's opponent in first round play, is 30-21 and comes from the Ohio Valley Conference. South Carolina Upstate is 45-7 overall and ranked first in the nation with a team ERA of 1.18. South Alabama is 40-12 and ranks second in the nation in team ERA, allowing 1.27 earned runs per game.
Alabama is 67-34 all-time in NCAA Tournament play and Bama has advanced to the Super Regional every year since the inception of the Super Regional round in 2005.
Bama Coach Patrick Murphy is now 834-224 (.788) overall and 342-107 (.762) in SEC play in his 16th season as Alabama's head coach. After leading the Tide to its fifth SEC Championship this season, he was named the SEC Coach of the Year, the fourth such honor of his career.
Alabama's other conference award winners were Jaclyn Traina (SEC Pitcher of the Year, All-SEC), Haylie McCleney (All-SEC, All-Defensive), Molly Fichtner (All-SEC second team) and Kaila Hunt (All-SEC second team).
Traina, a senior from Naples, Fla., turned in her 100th career win in the SEC Tournament win over Auburn. She is the third player in Alabama history and the ninth in SEC history to earn 100 career wins. With a 100-19 career record, she trials Shelly Laird (115, 1999-02) and Kelsi Dunne (113, 2008-11) in the Alabama record books.
McCleney and Kallie Case, both sophomore outfielders, were named to the SEC All-Tournament Team. Case was 4-7 with four runs and an RBI, McCleney 3-8 with two runs scored.