Tide Softball Opens SEC Play Vs. Rebels

Thus far, it hasn’t seemed much like ball season in Tuscaloosa, unless one is thinking “snowballs.” This weekend the Alabama softball team opens Southeastern Conference play, and it looks like a chilly start for Bama vs. Ole Miss. That won’t be a surprise to the Rebels, who have lost five games to weather this year.

Alabama hasn’t lost five games to weather, but the Crimson Tide has lost a surprising four of 19 games this year. Still, that’s owing in great part to Bama Coach Patrick Murphy having a challenging schedule; even more challenging than usual. Bama has played six games against ranked opponents, including five against top five teams.

In all of 2014, including the NCAA Tournament, the Tide played onlybsix games against top five opponents.

Even with the losses this year, Alabama is ranked fourth in the nation in one poll and fifth in the other.

Ole Miss has a record not much different than that of Bama, but the Rebels – who are rebuilding under a new coach in former McNeese Coach Mike Smith – are not ranked with a 13-5 record. The Rebels have eight freshmen on the roster.

The Tide and Mississippi will begin SEC play with a 5 p.m. CST game Friday, followed by a 2 p.m. game Saturday and 1:30 p.m. game Sunday. (Don’t forget to move your clock forward an hour as Daylight Savings Time begins Sunday.)

Although Bama hasn’t announced a pitching rotation, it is reasonable to expect the Tide will present three arms to the Rebels. Sophomore Sydney Littlejohn leads the pitching staff with a 7-0 record and a 1.03 ERA. Freshman Alexis Osorio leads the group with 53 strikeouts. Senior Leslie Jury has made the most appearances with nine.

Alabama has good reason to expect to see Ole Miss pitching Emily Gaitan. She has thrown 60 of the Rebels’ 120 innings this year. She is 8-1 with a 1.40 ERA and 54 strikeouts.

Alabama is coming off a series win from last week against fifth-ranked Louisiana-Lafayette.

It is no surprise that Bama is led offensively by All-America candidate Haylie McCleney, who is batting .518, which is fourth in the SEC. Ironically, also batting .518 is the Ole Miss offensive leader Miranda Strother.

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