Here are notes on the second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide of Coach Patrick Murphy as Bama prepares to take on the Mercer Bears.
The Bears come into Tuesday's game with a 9-37 overall record for the season. Mercer ended a 13-game losing streak with a win on Friday against Belmont. Jamie Madruga has had an outstanding season for Mercer. She is batting .424 with 15 doubles, 12 home runs and 35 RBI to lead the team. She has 12 of the team's 15 home runs. Meahwhile, the pitching staff has allowed 48 home runs. Six different players have pitched. Stephanie Rossman is 3-11 with a 4.31 ERA and 83 strikeouts to lead the team.
Alabama and Mercer have met two previous times with the Crimson Tide winning both matchups. The first meeting came in Bama's inaugural 1997 season. The Tide faced the Bears in the Georgia State Invitational and won 6-0. The next season UA came out on top again with a 7-0 win at the Georgia Tech Buzz Classic.
Alabama vs. the Atlantic Sun
The Crimson Tide has a 7-1 all-time record against teams from the Atlantic Sun Conference. They are 3-0 against Belmont, 2-0 against Mercer and 2-1 vs. Lipscomb.
Last Time Out
Alabama won both games of a doubleheader against Tennessee-Chattanooga last Wednesday. The Tide jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first three innings and led 8-2 heading into the seventh. The Lady Mocs scored four runs to make it interesting with an 8-6 final. In the second game, Bama turned a 2-1 contest into an 8-1 lead with a six-run fifth inning. Brittany Rogers was the leader on the day going 4-for-5 with five runs and four RBI. She hit a home run and a double in the second game. Alex Blewitt also hit one out in the second game for her first career home run. Dani Woods had a two-run shot in the first game.
Crimson Tide in the Rankings
Alabama is ranked No. 2 in the country in the USA Today/NFCA Top-25 and No. 3 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top-25. The Tide have been ranked in the top 10 for 26 straight weeks and have been ranked in 70 consecutive polls.
RPI Has Bama No. 2
Alabama was listed No. 2 in the second NFCA Simulated Ratings Percentage Index released last Friday. For the second straight week the Crimson Tide were listed with the second best RPI in the nation. Arizona held the top spot with the top strength of schedule. The Tide has the third best winning percentage of any team in the nation. Tennessee has the top win percentage but with a strength of schedule of 44th. The Crimson Tide's strength of schedule was 10th for the first RPI and 23rd for the second.
Mandy Burford will get to play in her hometown on Tuesday when Alabama squares off against Mercer at 6:30 p.m. in Oxford. Burford, a native of nearby Anniston, will be able to play in front of friends and family. The Crimson Tide players all get a chance to play near their hometown in their four-year careers as part of a recruiting promise by Head Coach Patrick Murphy. Katie Johnson (New Braunfels, Texas), Kellie Eubanks (Prairieville, La.), Jessica Smith (Pell City, Ala.) and Allison Moore (Tuscaloosa) have also got to play within a short distance of their hometowns this season.
National Player of the Year Finalists
Lauren Parker and Chrissy Owens were named two of 25 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. Parker is hitting .461 with eight home runs and 40 RBI. She ranks in the top-10 in the SEC in 10 different categories. She is batting .458 in SEC play and leads the league in two categories in conference only games. Owens is 20-2 with a 0.97 ERA and 107 strikeouts. She has nine shutouts in 21 starts. She is third in the SEC in both ERA and wins. The Crimson Tide is one of six teams with multiple selections to the list. The list will be narrowed to 10 finalists on May 9.
Junior Dani Woods has hit .545 (12-of-22) in the nine games to help the Crimson Tide to a nine-game winning streak. She has raised her average 61 points during the span. She climbed over the .300 mark for the season and is now batting .330 (33-of-100). She has hit three home runs during the span and driven in 14 runs while scoring five times. She has moved into the the top-10 all-time in both doubles and RBI.
Brittany Rogers (Dacula, Ga.) accomplished the unthinkable against Tennessee-Chattanooga. Her slap home run from the left side of the plate gave her inside and outside the park home runs from both the left and right side of the plate. Her four home runs this season have all come in different ways. Her two outside the park home runs came against back-to-back opponents with a right-handed shot against Auburn and left-handed vs. UTC. Earlier this season she hit inside the park home runs on back-to-back days in the Hampton Inn BAMA BASH! She hit one from the left side against Radford and the right against Toledo.
First Career Home Run
Freshman Alex Blewitt (Archbald, Pa.) hit her first career home run in the second game against Tennessee Chattanooga. Her line drive shot over the left field wall made her the eighth player this season to hit their first career home run. Blewitt joins Kellie Eubanks, Lauren Parker, Brittany Rogers, Charlotte Morgan, Michelle Menningmann, Katie Johnson and Jessica Smith as players who have hit their first career home run.
All nine players on the Alabama softball team who have started over 35 games have hit three or more home runs with eight of those tallying four or more. The regular starting lineup has combined for 54 home runs this season. Five of those nine players have hit six or more long balls. Mandy Burford leads the team with nine home runs while Lauren Parker and Charlotte Morgan are close behind with eight. The left side of the infield has 13 home runs with Kelley Montalvo hitting seven out and Kellie Eubanks crushing six home runs. Since SEC play has started Morgan and Montalvo have been on fire. Morgan has seven home runs in the last 25 games and Montalvo has hit five.
The 2007 Alabama softball team is already approaching the school record for home runs hit in a season. With 11 games left to play in the regular season they are only 13 home runs shy of the school record of 73 set by the 1998 squad. That year the Tide played 67 games and averaged just over one home run per outing. This season in 46 games they are averaging 1.30 per contest and are on pace to set the record by the end of the regular season.
Chrissy Owens (Miami, Fla.) earned her 50th career win against Tennessee-Chattanooga, becoming just the fifth Tide player to win 50 games. The win also was her 20th of the season improving her record to 20-2. It was the 12th 20-win season in the program's 11-year history. Owens has accomplished the feat in back-to-back seasons after recording 21 victories last season as a sophomore. The last two seasons Alabama has had a pair of players who won 20 games. They are trying to accomplish the feat for the third straight year as Blair Potter is a perfect 11-0.
30 RBI Club
Only 17 SEC players have recorded 30 or more RBI this season but the Tide has five of those. Lauren Parker leads the team with 40 RBI and is one of only seven players with 40 or more on the season. Mandy Burford is ninth in the SEC with 34. Charlotte Morgan and Dani Woods each have recorded 32 RBI on the year. Jordan Praytor joined the list recently and now has 31 for the season. Three other players have tallied over 20 this season.
Hitting .300 or Better
Seven of the nine everyday starters are batting over .300 for Alabama. As a team they are hitting .334 which is 119 points better than their opponents' average of .215. In all nine of the 16 players who have batted this season are hitting over .300. Lauren Parker leads the way with a .461 avg. while Mallory Benak is 7-of-12 (.583). Brittany Rogers is also batting over .400 with a .412 avg. and Charlotte Morgan is batting .385. The other players batting over .300 are Jordan Praytor (.346), Michelle Menningmann (.333) Dani Woods (.330), Kelley Montalvo (.321), and Mandy Burford (.311).
The Crimson Tide leads the SEC in 10 team categories. Ashley Holcombe leads the SEC with four pickoffs while Brittany Rogers is tied for the league lead with 48 runs scored. In SEC games, Alabama leads the conference in nine different team categories. Lauren Parker leads the conference with 16 runs scored and 41 total bases. Charlotte Morgan leads the conference with six home runs, 20 RBI and a .696 slugging pct.
On April 3 against Northwestern State, Alabama set a school record with nine stolen bases in one game. It broke the previous record of eight set three times before. Five players combined for the nine steals. Brittany Rogers swiped three to lead the team. Jordan Praytor and Mallory Benak each tallied two while Charlotte Morgan and Mandy Burford also stole a base. The Tide are fast approaching a single season record for stolen bases. They currently are eight stolen bases shy of the record of 138 established in 2000.
100 Stolen Bases and Counting
The Crimson Tide have blazed their way to a SEC-leading 130 stolen bases in 46 games this season, an average of 2.8 stolen bases per game. Brittany Rogers leads the team with 36 stolen bases and has only been caught stealing five times. Jordan Praytor sits at 22 on the year while Mandy Burford has 19 stolen bases. Lauren Parker is 13-of-17 and Mallory Benak is 12-of-16. The Tide has stolen 110 more bases than their opponents and have three or more stolen bases in 24 games this year.
One of the big reasons that Alabama is 42-4 this season is the fact that they have scored three or more runs in an inning 44 times. They have had an inning with at least three runs in 29 of the 46 contests. They have two games this season with a 10-run inning with both coming in the second frame. They accomplished the feat against Winthrop and most recently Georgia. The 10 runs tied for the second highest run total in a single inning in school history. Alabama has also recorded nine, eight and seven-run innings this season. They have scored six runs six times, five runs seven times, four runs 11 times and three runs 15 times. They have outscored their opponents 75-10 in the second inning and 44-8 in the first.
Alabama is scoring 7.26 runs per game to lead the SEC. So far this season they have outscored their opponents by a combined 334-76, an average margin of victory of 6.6 runs per game. The 334 runs scored is 52 more than LSU who is second in the conference. Alabama has scored three or more runs in 42 of the 44 games this season. The Tide has scored 10 or more runs 13 times and five or more runs in 35 of the 46 games. The Tide has run-ruled its opponent 17 times.
Three Runs or Less Equals Success
The Crimson Tide pitching staff has made a living this season by keeping the opposing team off the scoreboard. They have tallied 17 shutouts in 46 games and have allowed one run or less in 27 contests. Opponents have only scored two runs seven times and three runs six times. Only six times has Alabama allowed more than three runs, two of which resulted in losses with an 8-4 setback at Florida and a 5-4 loss in eight innings at LSU.
Patience is a Virtue
The Crimson Tide team has drawn 36 walks in the last seven games to give them 160 walks on the season. They also lead the conference with 59 walks in league play. Players have drawn three walks in a game seven times this season. As a team they have walked five or more times in eight of the last 11 contests and 16 times this season. Mandy Burford leads the team with 25 walks while Kellie Eubanks has 23. Charlotte Morgan is next with 20 walks. Jordan Praytor has 18 walks and Kelley Montalvo has earmed 15 free passes and Ashley Holcombe has walked 13 times.
Who's on First
Alabama has received production throughout the lineup with six of the nine everyday starters posting at least a .400 on-base pct.. Lauren Parker has the highest OBP at .508 with 53 hits, eight walks and five HBP. Charlotte Morgan has found her way on with 42 hits, 20 walks and one HBP for a .477 OBP. Mandy Burford has 33 hits, 25 walks and five HBP for a .460 OBP and Jordan Praytor has posted 44 hits to go along with 18 walks and three hit-by-pitch for a .439 OBP.
Home Sweet Home
Alabama had its 30-game home winning streak snapped with an extra-inning 2-1 loss to Georgia but have since won nine in a row at the Alabama Softball Complex. The Tide are now 31-1 at home this season to give them one of the nation's top home-field advantages. Now in the 11th year of the program, the Tide owns a career record of 221-38 at home, a winning percentage of .853. Season ticket sales are at an all-time high with over 1,100 sold for the first time in program history. Last season Alabama went an incredible 30-4 at home with an undefeated 5-0 during the NCAA Tournament.
The Crimson Tide recorded its two largset crowds in school history in their three-game series with Auburn. Friday night a record 1,958 fans came out to watch Bama win 10-0 (5) and 5-3. The second largest crowd of 1,829 on Saturday witnessed a 12-4 (5) victory by the Tide. Out of the top 12 all-time crowds at Alabama, 11 have come in the past two seasons and six of those in 2007, including three of the top four figures.
40 Wins Eight Straight Years
The Crimson Tide have now won 40 or more games in each of the past eight years. Head Coach Patrick Murphy has guided Bama to winning seasons in all nine of his seasons at the helm and after winning 39 games his first year he has posted eight straight 40-win seasons. He has four seasons with 50+ victories and two with over 60 wins.
The Crimson Tide players have tallied 92 multiple-hit games this season. So far 13 different players have posted a game with two or more hits. Brittany Rogers leads the way with 20 multi-hit games while Lauren Parker is right behind her with 17. Rogers has 15 contests with two hits and five with three hits. Parker has 14 games with two hits, two with three hits and one with four hits. Charlotte Morgan has 11 on the year.
Part of the reason why the Crimson Tide are averaging over seven 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 13 multi-RBI games while Jordan Praytor and Dani Woods each have nine games with two or more RBI. Charlotte Morgan has tallied eight multi-RBI contests.
In the first 46 games of the 2007 season, Alabama has hit 60 home runs to give them nine more than they had in 65 games last season. So far 13 of the Tide's 16 batters have recorded a home run and 10 players have hit three or more. Mandy Burford leads the team with nine home runs. Newcomers Lauren Parker and Charlotte Morgan have each hit eight on the season. Parker did not hit a home run as a freshman at Baylor in 2006 while Morgan has hit a home run in six of the seven SEC series. Kelley Montalvo currently sits at seven on the season while Brittany Rogers has hit inside and outside the park home runs from both the right and left side of the plate.
Rounding the Bases
Lauren Parker has made scoring runs a regular occuring theme this season. She has scored a run in seven of the last eight contests. In 42 games this season she has tallied 39 runs scored to rank second on the squad. She has scored a run in 31 of her 42 contests. Earlier this season she scored a run in 13 straight games. She has seven games with two or more runs scored and set a career high with three on 4/1 against Georgia.
What a Difference a Year Makes
Last season Lauren Parker played in 30 games at Baylor and hit .266 with 10 RBI but this season she has been on a tear, leading the team in several categories and ranking among the SEC leaders. She leads the team with a .461 batting avg. to go with 53 hits, 39 runs, 10 doubles, two triples, eight home runs and 40 RBI. She has recorded a .791 slugging pct. in 42 games and a .508 on-base percentage. She has a hit in 32 of her 42 games, scored a run in 31 outings and driven in a run 22 times.
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 to score 21 runs for fourth on the career list and is five hits shy of 12th all-time. She is also nine RBI away from 100 in her career and 13th all-time Dani Woods needs two doubles for eighth on the career list, one home run away from 11th and 16 RBI shy of ninth. Mandy Burford needs two runs for 10th all-time and one home run from 11th. She is also one stolen basey away from sixth on the career list. Brittany Rogers needs six runs scored for ninth all-time. Chrissy Owens needs three wins for fourth all-time and is one save shy of the school record. She is one shutout away from third all-time.
With two outs you can't count the Tide batters out. They have produced 92 runs this season with two outs. Bama tallied seven two-out RBI in a double header against Tennessee Chattanooga. Lauren Parker leads the team with 16 two-out RBI while Jordan Praytor has driven in 12 runs. Parker is batting .410 (16-of-39) with two outs. Brittany Rogers is hitting .424 (14-of-33) with two outs and has seven RBI. Ashley Holcombe and Dani Woods both came through in the Georgia series with two outs and now have nine two-out RBI. Mandy Burford and Charlotte Morgan both have knocked in eight runs with two outs.
Put the Bat on the Ball
In a total of 1,373 plate appearances this season, Alabama hitters have only struck out 160 times. Only one out of every 8.6 plate appearances has resulted in a strikeout. There are two players who have started over 40 games and have fewer than 10 strikeouts. Lauren Parker has only struck out eight times in 128 plate appearances while Charlotte Morgan has gone 130 plate appearances with only six strikeouts. Brittany Rogers has gone down only 12 times in 155 plate appearances and Kelley Montalvo has 11 strikeouts in 122 plate appearances.
Morgan a Menace at the Plate
Freshman Charlotte Morgan (Moreno Valley, Calif.) has recorded a hit in 17 of the last 20 games for the Tide. In her last 23 games she is batting .424 (28-of-66) with 20 runs, 24 RBI, seven home runs and eight walks. After 19 SEC games she is batting .357 and leads the team with six home runs and 20 RBI to go along with 15 runs scored. She has hit home runs in six of Bama's seven SEC series. She has raised her season avg. to .385 (42-of-109) with eight home runs and 32 RBI to go along with 28 runs, six doubles and 20 walks.
Senior starting pitcher Blair Potter has a distinction not many collegiate players have. She is undefeated in her Division I career with a 16-0 record at Alabama. Since transferring from Wallace-Dothan Community College, Potter has gone through the ranks without a loss. She has a career 1.75 ERA after posting a 1.45 ERA this season. In 2007 she has recorded one shutout in her 15 starts and is 11-0. She has allowed only 17 earned runs in 82.2 innings with 58 hits allowed, 15 walks and 72 strikeouts. Right-handed batters are hitting just .171 against the Tide's first ever left-handed hurler.
Crimson Tide vs. Ranked Teams
Alabama has played 15 games against teams ranked in the Top-25 this season and own an 11-4 record. The Tide shutout No. 22 N.C. State twice in the Hampton Inn Crimson Classic. The following weekend Alabama downed No. 11 Louisiana-Lafayette two times with a 6-0 victory in the first game and a walkoff three-run home run in the eighth inning by Mandy Burford in the second. The Tide split with No. 22 Florida and followed by sweeping 24th-ranked South Carolina on the road. The Tide lost 2-of-3 at No. 8 LSU but bounced back by winning two of the three games at home against Georgia. Alabama's next game against a team ranked in this week's polls is at Tennessee May 5-6.
Crimson Tide on WVUA
WVUA will be carrying the Crimson Tide on 90.7 FM in Tuscaloosa for home and away games throughout the 2007 season. This will be the 7th season WVUA has covered Alabama Softball. Award-winning sportscaster Nic Hoch will call the action along with others from the WVUA sports team. All games can also be heard on the internet at http://broadcastmonsters.com/Alabama/alabama.asx.