Top-Ranked Bama Hosts Tournament

Alabama fans get a chance to see the nation's number one ranked team when the Crimson Tide softball team hosts the Bama Bash this weekend at the Alabama Softball Complex. The Alabama team of Coach Patrick Murphy is number one in both national softball polls this week after going 4-0 in opening week action.

Although Alabama softball season tickets are sold out again this year, general admission tickets will be available at the gate for the Bama Bash.

The Crimson Tide will welcome three other teams to the Alabama Softball Complex for a total of eight games. Notre Dame (0-0), Wisconsin (0-4), and East Carolina (3-1) will head south for the tournament. The Crimson Tide will open play on Friday at 5 p.m. against the Fighting Irish.

Here is a look at the visiting teams:

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are coming off a 38-22-1 2008 season. ND placed fourth in the Big East and made a NCAA regional appearance. Notre Dame will make its season debut at the BAMA Bash. The Fighting Irish return Brittney Bargar and Jody Valdivia. Bargar had 30 wins and 244 strikeouts in 291.1 innings of work. At the plate ND returns Sadie Pitzenberger and her .343 batting average in 31 contests. Linda Cohen and her .302 average returns as well. Supplying the punch for the Fighting Irish is Christine Lux. The junior smacked 15 home runs and drove in 42 runs on top of a .277 average a year ago. ND returns 14 monogram winners and was tabbed third among league members in the BIG EAST Conference preseason poll for the 2009 campaign. Head coach Deanna Gumpf is 289-136-1 in seven seasons at Notre Dame.

Wisconsin: The Badgers head to Tuscaloosa with a 0-4 record after dropping all of its opening weekend games at the Cathedral City Kickoff in Palm Spring, Calif. The Badgers opened the season by getting shutout by Fresno State 5-0. UW then fell to Oregon State 4-3 to cap off opening day. The Badgers fell to No. 20 ranked Long Beach State 7-0 and then dropped a 13-12 decision to Boise State. After four games the Badgers are batting .278 with Letty Olivarez leading the way with a ..462 batting average. Jennifer Krueger closely follows with a .455 average. In the circle the Badgers have a 7.46 ERA in 25.1 innings. Opponents sport a 3..86 ERA. Olivarez has started three of the four games and has a 7.36 ERA, striking out 14 in 14.2 innings. The Badgers return six starters this season, including Leah Vanevenhoven who made 48 appearances in the circle last year. She pitched seven complete games, and struck out 139 batters.

East Carolina: The Pirates enter the BAMA Bash with a 3-1 record after earning wins over Virginia and Middle Tennessee. ECU opened the season with a 9-1 win over the Cavaliers and then swept the Blue Raiders by the scores of 3-1 and 3-2 at the ECU Invitational. East Carolina received votes in both the USA Today/NFCA (four votes) and Softball (two votes) preseason polls. The Pirates have not entered the Top 25 of the USA Today/NFCA poll since 2000 and have never been in the Softball poll. ECU has relied on pitching to get the job done as the Pirates only hit at a .206 clip over the first four games. Behind the arm of Conference USA Pitcher of the Week Toni Paisley, the Pirates were able to secure the three wins. Paisley appeared in all four games for the Pirates, picking up two wins and a save. In her 16.1 innings of work, she struck out 18 batters and did not allow a walk. Leading the way at the plate is Marina Gusman-Brown and her .400 batting average. For the second-straight season, ECU was picked to finish as the runner-up behind Houston in the Conference USA Preseason Coaches' Poll. The Pirates finished 2008 with a 37-30 overall record and a 10-12 conference mark and advanced to a NCAA regional.

Alabama has a team full of star players, including All-America performers like Brittany Rogers, Charlotte Morgan, Kelsi Dunne, and Lauren Parker. But Tide fans have a new star to watch in freshman Cassandra Reilly-Boccia.

Newcomer Reilly-Boccia had no problems adjusting to the collegiate game. The rookie helped lead Alabama to a perfect 4-0 record on the weekend. The Yorktown Heights, N.Y. native started in all four games and batted .667 (8-for-12) with two doubles and six RBI. Reilly-Boccia stepped right onto the collegiate stage and did not miss a beat as she collected two hits and drove in two runs in her first game in an Alabama uniform. She then followed that up with a 3-for-3 performance with three RBI in the night cap on opening day.

Alabama will play a total of four games in the BAMA Bash. The Crimson Tide has faced all three teams in previous seasons. Alabama sports an overall record of 4-2 against the field. UA is 2-0 against Notre Dame, 2-1 against Wisconsin and 0-1 against East Carolina. The last time the Crimson Tide faced an opponent of the BAMA Bash field was in 2006 when UA defeated Notre Dame 4-3.

The Crimson Tide has hosted the BAMA Bash every season since 1998 and has taken a liking to the home cooking of the historically early season home tournament.. Overall Alabama sports a 48-7 record in BAMA Bash play, including a perfect 24-0 since 2004. The last time the Crimson Tide fell in a BAMA Bash contest was in 2003 by the score of 4-0 to Southern Illinois. Alabama has lost just once in the tournament in the last eight seasons. The Crimson Tide has earned five wins on six different occasions and the most losses came in the inception of the tournament in 1998 when UA posted a 3-3 mark at the Bash.

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