Alabama is coming off four victories in the Easton Spring Fling, including two over Number 11 Louisiana Lafayette. The Bulldogs are coming off a pair of mid-week victories against Indiana State, 2-1, on Tuesday and Samford, 7-0, on Wednesday.
Scouting Mississippi State
Alabama and Mississippi State will play a doubleheader at the Crimson Tide Softball Stadium beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday, then finish the series with a single game beginning at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
The Bulldogs head into SEC play with a 15-8 record on the year and are riding a three-game winning streak coming in to the weekend. They are led by Chelsea Bramlett who is batting .429 (36-84) with 26 runs scored and 22 stolen bases. Kelli Miller leads the way on the mound with a 6-3 record and 1.13 ERA.
Alabama leads the all-time series with Mississippi State 28-7. The two teams met twice last year with the Tide taking both games. UA has won six straight games against the Bulldogs since MSU took the 2004 series with two wins in three games. Alabama also won 13 straight from 2000-03 for the longest winning streak in the series.
Last Year's Series
The Crimson Tide swept the first two games of the series on 4/29 but the final game was rained out. In the first game, Kelley Montalvo singled up the middle to score Mallory Benak for the game-winning run in the eighth inning. Staci Ramsey led the Tide to a 6-3 victory in the second game with two home runs and four RBI while Jordan Praytor had a double and a home run with two RBI and two runs scored.
Alabama Players vs. Mississippi State
Dani Woods has had the most success against the Bulldogs of any Tide player. She has seven hits in 14 at bats in the five games she has played in against MSU. She also has one home run, one double, three runs scored and five RBI. Jordan Praytor has four hits, five runs scored, three doubles, one home run and three RBI. Brittany Rogers went 3-for-7 with a double and two runs scored in her first two games against the Bulldogs last season. Chrissy Owens is 2-0 with one save, allowing one earned run on six hits in 10 1/3 IP with 10 strikeouts.
Last Time Out
Alabama won its 21st straight game to start the season with a dramatic come-from-behind extra inning win over No. 11 Louisiana Lafayette on Sunday in the final game of the Easton Spring Fling. Trailing 3-2 with one out in the bottom of the seventh, Kellie Eubanks hit a solo home run to tie the game. In the eighth inning, Mandy Burford hit her second home run of the day, a three-run walk-off to give UA a 6-3 victory.
The University of Alabama softball team won four tournament championships already this season. They swept their opponents in four games for the first Eason Spring Fling championship. They won six games to win their third straight Crimson Classic title. They downed #22 N.C. State in the championship game, 6-0. They also went undefeated at 5-0 to claim their seventh straight BAMA BASH! Championship, defeating Toledo 5-1 in the title game. The Tide started the season at the Century-Tel Softball Classic in San Marcos, Texas with five victories, including an 11-1 stomping of Oklahoma State to take the title.
Mandy Burford (Anniston, Ala.) hit a three-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Alabama a 6-3 victory over No. 11 Louisiana Lafayette last Sunday. It was her second long ball of the game and the second time this season she has hit two home runs in a single game. She has already passed her previous career high of five, leading the team with seven home runs.
Alabama continues to hit the ball well as a team with a .344 team batting average. Six players are hitting .300 or better with four of those posting an above .400 average. Lauren Parker leads the team with a .511 batting avg. (23-of-45) while Brittany Rogers is batting at a clip of .485 (32-of-66) to lead the team in hits. Jordan Praytor increased her average to .463 (25-of-54) over the weekend. Alabama has outscored its opponents 164-16 on the season, averaging 7.8 runs per game.
On the Basepaths
The Crimson Tide have blazed their way to 70 stolen bases in 21 games this season, an average of 3.33 stolen bases per game. They have only been caught stealing seven times on the year for a success rate of 90.9-percent. They have 14 more stolen bases than any other SEC school. Mandy Burford and Brittany Rogers have led the way so far with 16 stolen bases apiece while Jordan Praytor stole five last weekend to give her 13 on the year. Lauren Parker is 8-of-9 and Kelley Montalvo has six stolen bases. The Tide has stolen 60 more bases than their opponents.
One of the big reasons that Alabama has started 17-0 this season has been their ability to put together innings of three or more runs. They have had an inning with at least three runs in 13 of the 21 contests. They recorded their biggest inning last weekend against Winthrop in the semifinal game with a 10-run second inning. It tied for the second highest run total in a single inning in school history. Alabama has also recorded nine and seven-run innings this season. They have scored six runs three times, five runs twice, four runs five times and three runs nine times. They have outscored their opponents 38-5 in the third inning and 31-1 in the fourth.
Fast Out of the Gate
The Tide has scored in the first inning in the last eight contests and 11 of their last 13 games. They have outscored their opponents 29-1 in the opening frame this season. The only opponent to score against Alabama in the first inning was Texas-San Antonio giving the Tide 18 straight games without a first inning run allowed.
In the first 21 games of the 2007 season, Alabama has hit 27 home runs with 12 of the Tide's 16 batters recording a home run on the year. Mandy Burford leads the team with seven home runs after hitting three last weekend. Lauren Parker also added two home runs in the Easton Spring Fling to give her five on the season while Kellie Eubanks hit her third of the year. Brittany Rogers hit two inside-the-park home runs in the BAMA BASH!, with one coming from the right side and the other from the left. Seven players have hit their first collegiate home run this season including Eubanks, Parker, Rogers, Charlotte Morgan, Michelle Menningmann, Katie Johnson and most recently Jessica Smith last Friday.
Deadly 1-2 Punch
The combination of Brittany Rogers and Jordan Praytor as the first two hitters in the Tide lineup this season has been deadly for opponents. Rogers has reached base in her first at bat in 12 of the 21 games with nine singles. You can almost count it like a double because after reaching base her first time up she has stolen a base eight times. Praytor has reached base in the first inning in 11 of her 19 starts. She has six singles, one double and one triple. She also has three first inning RBI and three of the eight times she has gotten out, she advanced Rogers to third with only one out.
Who's on First
Alabama has received production throughout the lineup with each player in the 1-9 slots contributing game-in and game-out. Five different players have recorded at least a .400 on base percentage for the season. Three of those players have reached base at least 50-percent of the time. Jordan Praytor leads the team with a .567 OBP, recording a team-high 10 walks to go along with 25 hits and three hit-by-pitch. Lauren Parker is close behind with a .566 OBP, posting 23 hits, four walks and three hit-by-pitch. Brittany Rogers has found her way on with 32 hits and four walks for a .514 OBP.
When you look at the numbers for Alabama hitters leading off an inning, there is no wonder why the team has started 21-0 this season. As a team, Alabama is batting .453 (53-of-117) when leading off an inning. Brittany Rogers has the most at bats with 27 and has recorded 16 hits for a .593 avg. Kellie Eubanks is 7-of-14 (.500) with two home runs to start a frame. Freshman Charlotte Morgan is 6-for-12 (.500) as well for the Tide while Mandy Burford is an amazing 5-of-8 (.625).
Red Hot Praytor
Junior designated player Jordan Praytor (Vancouver, Wash.) went on a tear last week beginning with a pinch-hit two-run home run at Samford. The home run started a streak where Praytor would reach base in nine straight plate appearances. In the first game of the Easton Spring Fling she went 3-for-3 with three RBI against Seton Hall. She followed with one single, two walks and a hit-by-pitch against Louisiana Lafayette. She extended her streak with a walk against Seton Hall but would strike out in her next at bat.
Sophomore Transfer Lauren Parker (Port Neches, Texas) has been a pleasant surprise for the Tide this season. After playing in 30 games at Baylor last season she has already put up bigger numbers this season for Alabama, leading the team in several categories and ranking among the SEC leaders. She leads the team with a .511 batting avg. to go with 23 hits, 21 runs, three doubles, two triples, five home runs and 21 RBI. She has recorded a 1.000 slugging pct. in 18 starts and a .566 on-base percentage. Her 45 total bases are the tops for the squad. She has also been effective on the basepaths and in the field with eight stolen bases and a fielding percentage of .980.
Mandy Burford Day
On Saturday the Crimson Tide will honor senior Mandy Burford with Mandy Burford Day at the Alabama Softball Complex. Burford has come into her own this season for Bama with a team-high seven home runs and 28 RBI. She has three games with five or more RBI. She is also second on the team with 23 runs scored and has batted .404 in 20 games. She is tied for the team lead with 16 stolen bases and has two games with two home runs on the year.
Chrissy Owens (Miami, Fla.) is the ace of the Crimson Tide pitching staff. After finishing her sophomore season ranked second in the nation with a 0.68 ERA, she has got off to another great start as a junior in 2007. She has only allowed two runs in 55 innings. She has posted a 10-0 record in her nine starts with five shutouts. She also has 57 strikeouts compared to just 14 walks and 41 hits. She had a career-high 13 strikeouts earlier this season against Indiana State.
Don't Try This At Home
Ashley Holcombe has made a big difference for the Crimson Tide behind the plate this season. She has picked off four runners at either first or second base and thrown out two out of 12 runners attempting to steal second. She has also been on the receiving end of three runners thrown out at home plate.
As a team Alabama leads the SEC in home runs, stolen bases, fewest home runs allowed and pickoffs. Individually the Tide has several players ranked among the leaders in the SEC. Lauren Parker leads the team, ranking in the top-10 in eight separate categories. Mandy Burford is ranked in six categories with a mix of power and speed. On the mound Chrissy Owens is third in the SEC with a 0.25 ERA.
The Crimson Tide has started 21-0 in 2007, the second best start in school history. It is the third straight year and fourth overall that they won at least 10 games to start the season. The best start in school history was in 2001 when they busted out to a 27-0 record and climbed to No. 3 in the national rankings. The first loss that season was on the road against Tennessee. Last year Alabama won its first 10 games before losing at Southern Miss, 3-2. In 2005 UA began the year 13-0 before losing to Missouri in the Crimson Classic.
Tide in the Rankings
Alabama stayed at No. 3 this week in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top-25 and climbed one spot to a tie for No. 4 in the USA Today/NFCA Top-25. It is the second straight week the Tide are ranked No. 3 matching the highest ranking in school history. They were ranked third one week last season and in 2001 when they started 27-0. Bama has now been ranked in the top-10 for 21 consecutive weeks and in the top-25 for 65 straight polls.
The Crimson Tide players have tallied 39 multiple-hit games this season. So far 11 different players have posted a game with two or more hits. Brittany Rogers leads the way with 11 multi-hit games, including nine contests with two hits and two with three hits. Lauren Parker has seven multi-hit games and Jordan Praytor six. Praytor is the only player this season with four hits in a game.
Part of the reason why the Crimson Tide are averaging almost eight runs per game is the number of times they have had a player with two or more RBI in a game. Lauren Parker leads the way with seven multi-RBI games while Mandy Burford has six contests with two or more RBI, including three games with five or more.
Freshman Charlotte Morgan posted a new career high with eight strikeouts against Louisiana Lafayette in her first collegiate start against a ranked opponent. Lauren Parker set a new career high with four RBI against Seton Hall and Jessica Smith hit a three-run home run for her first career home-run and a career high for RBI.
Several Alabama players are close to setting personal milestones or moving up in the Crimson Tide record book. Jordan Praytor continues to etch her place in the record books. She needs five runs to move in to 5th all-time. Dani Woods needs five RBI to give her 100 for her career and move in to 12th all-time. Mandy Burford is one stolen base away from 7th all-time and one home run shy of 13th on the career list. Chrissy Owens needs seven strikeouts for 400 in her career.
Home Sweet Home
Through the first month of the season, the Crimson Tide is 15-0 at the friendly confines of the Alabama Softball Complex. Now in the 11th year of the program, the Tide owns a career record of 205-37, a winning percentage of .847. Season ticket sales are at an all-time high with over 1,000 sold for the first time in program history. Last season Alabama went an incredible 30-4 at home.