There’s good news and bad news as Alabama’s softball team begins Southeastern Conference Tournament play at 6:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday at Nusz Park in Starkville. The bad news is that because the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide finished fifth in regular season standings, Bama did not receive a bye in the tournament and has to play on the first day. Moreover, Alabama drew the home team – Mississippi State – in that first game of single elimination play. The SEC Network will televise the game.
The good news is that the Tide swept the Bulldogs earlier this season in Tuscaloosa, outscoring them 23-2 over three games. In all-time SEC Tournament play against the Bulldogs, Bama is 6-1.
Alabama owns a 35-22 all-time record at the SEC Tournament, including tournament titles in 1998, 2003, 2005, 2010, and 2012.
The winner of Wednesday’s game advances to play fourth seed Auburn at 6:30 p.m. CDT Thursday.
Alabama is 45-11 this year, including 16-8 in SEC games, having won seven SEC series.
The SEC announced its annual postseason awards ahead of this week’s SEC Tournament and five Alabama softball players won seven spots on the various All-SEC teams.
Senior Haylie McCleney was named first team All-SEC outfielder for the third-straight season and also earned a spot on the SEC’s All-Defensive Team at center field for the fourth-straight season. Alabama’s second-team honorees include junior pitcher Sydney Littlejohn and senior infielder Leona Lafaele, with Lafaele also taking home SEC All-Defensive honors at first base. Reagan Dykes was named to the Freshman All-SEC team while senior Kallie Case was named to the All-Defensive team in left field.
Alabama and Tennessee were tied for the second-most players represented with five each. Florida and Georgia led the league with seven players each.
Alabama pitching has only allowed 102 walks, the lowest mark in the SEC. With 357 strikeouts, the Tide’s 3.50 K/BB ratio is the second-best in the league, trailing only Florida at 4.15.
Alabama’s defense has committed the third-fewest errors in the league, both in overall games (38) and SEC-only contests (17). The Tide has a .972 fielding percentage, both overall and in SEC play, which ranks third in the league.
The Tide’s stolen base percentage of .889 (88-99) is the highest mark in program history, just edging out the team’s 2013 mark of .886 (117-132). The team’s two stolen base leaders, Haylie McCleney and Chandler Dare, are a combined 37-38 this season.
Leona Lafaele leads the team with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs this season and has a career-best .366 batting average.
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Sydney Littlejohn ended the regular season with 22 wins, which ranks second in the SEC, while her 12 wins in conference play was the most of any SEC pitcher. Her 12 conference wins came in only 82 innings, which is eighth among SEC pitchers. She is the only SEC pitcher with fewer than 90 conference innings pitched and more than 10 league wins.