Alabama Softball Hosts Florida

The No. 7/5 Alabama softball team (23-7, 6-2 SEC) will continue its longest home-stand of the season with a Southeastern Conference series against No. 6/13 Florida (21-3, 4-1 SEC). The two conference powerhouses will square off in a doubleheader on Saturday with first pitch at 1 p.m. ESPN2 will televise the opener. The finale is Sunday beginning at 1:30 p.m. and will be aired on ESPNU.

Alabama extended its winning streak to five games with a 6-2 victory over UAB on Wednesday night. The Crimson Tide used three home runs to earn the season sweep over their instate foe and also secure the 300th win at the Alabama Softball Complex. Sophomore Kendall Dawson batted 2-for-3 with a home run and a double. Junior Kelsi Dunne earned her 11th win on the season by striking out eight in five innings.

Alabama freshman Kayla Braud has continued to set the table for the Tide in the leadoff spot. The newcomer is batting .727 (8-for-11) over her last five games and has shown some pop from the top of the lineup as well. Over that span Braud leads the team with seven RBI and has also hit a home run, a double and a triple. The rookie has scored seven runs, stole four bases and has walked twice without striking out.

The Florida Gators come to Tuscaloosa with a 21-3 overall record and a 4-1 mark in conference play. Florida played its first game in over eight days after being rained out a number of times. The Gators made quick work of the USF Bulls as Stephanie Brombacher tossed a five inning perfect game in a 10-0 victory. In conference action Florida took two-of-three against Mississippi and then swept Auburn in a midweek doubleheader. At the plate senior Francesca Enea leads the SEC with 13 home runs and 39 RBI. She also brings with her a .412 batting average. In the circle Brombacher improved to 17-3 on the season after the win against USF. The right-hander has struck out 116 and sports a 1.79 ERA.

The two teams will be meeting for the 42nd time as Alabama holds a 25-16 all-time advantage. The two teams met five times last season with Florida winning four of contests, including a 6-5 win in the semifinals of the Women's College World Series. Alabama last hosted Florida in Tuscaloosa in a doubleheader on March 12, 2008. The two teams split the twin-bill with Alabama taking game one, 1-0 and Florida earning an 8-4 victory in game two. That 8-4 loss was the last time the Tide dropped an SEC contest at the Alabama Softball Complex.

As the weather has started to heat up, so have the Alabama bats. Over the last 10 games the Tide has belted 25 home runs, including nine over the last two games. Alabama hit 25 home runs in its first 20 games of the season. Over the last 10 contests senior Charlotte Morgan has led Alabama with five home runs and 15 RBI. Junior Whitney Larsen and sophomore Cassie Reilly-Boccia have drilled three apiece over that span.

Alabama is 7-5 against teams ranked in the top 25 in either poll. The Tide has earned wins over Missouri, Ohio State, Michigan and Georgia. Leading the way offensively for the Tide against ranked opponents is sophomore Cassie Reilly-Boccia and freshman Kayla Braud. Reilly-Boccia is batting .560 (14-for25) with 11 runs, three home runs and seven RBI. Braud is batting .444 (16-for-36) with 12 runs and four stolen bases. Junior Kelsi Dunne has struck out 69 in 44 1/3 innings pitched.

Alabama senior Charlotte Morgan was named the SEC Player of the Week as announced by the conference office Monday. Morgan has consistently started to heat up with the start of conference play and this season was no different. The two-time All-American batted .600 (9-for-15), scored eight runs, drilled four home runs, added three doubles and drove in 11. Morgan slugged 1.600 as seven of her nine hits went for extra bases.

Alabama has been off to a hot start in conference play and it has shown in the statistical rankings. During SEC play the Tide leads the league in eight offensive categories, including batting average (.346), slugging percentage (.726), on base percentage (.459), runs (69), RBI (60), home runs (21), total bases (151) and walks (39). In the circle the Tide ranks third in ERA (65), second in opposing batting average (.213) and paces the league in strikeouts with 65.

Individually Charlotte Morgan leads the league in slugging percentage (1.238), RBI (15), home runs (5) and total bases (26). Kelsi Dunne leads the league in strikeouts (41) and strikeouts looking (12).. Overall in all games played Cassie Reilly-Boccia leads the conference in on base percentage (.596) and walks (29).

Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy earned his 600th career win as head coach of the Crimson Tide softball team in the second game of a doubleheader against South Carolina on Saturday, March 20 with an 8-2 victory over the Gamecocks. Murphy earned the 600th victory of his career in a 2-1 win over Kentucky on May 8, 2009 in the SEC Tournament semifinals last season. However that mark included the 28 victories Murphy earned as interim head coach of the Northwest Missouri State Bobcats in 1995. Murphy is the first softball coach in the SEC to reach 600 wins at an SEC school since the conference began participation in the sport in 1997. The Alabama skipper is the winningest active coach in the SEC. Including this season no current coach in the SEC has more wins over the last 10 seasons than Murphy.

The Crimson Tide earned win number 300 at the Alabama Softball Complex Wednesday night with their 6-2 victory over UAB. Alabama went an impressive 31-1 in 2009 inside the friendly confines of the Alabama Softball Complex. The lone loss last season came to eventual national champion Washington. The Tide is currently on a 26-game winning streak at home against SEC opponents. Alabama's last home loss to an SEC foe came on March 12, 2008 against Florida.

The Crimson Tide put on an offensive clinic in the series finale against the South Carolina Gamecocks on Sunday. Alabama erupted for 21 runs on the strength of six home runs and a 14-run inning. The 21 runs ties a school record and the six home runs and 14-run inning also equals a program milestone. The 21 runs are the most since Alabama downed McNeese State on Feb. 13, 2008. The six home runs equals the mark against Kentucky in Lexington on March 22, 2008.

A first-team All-American in 2009, Alabama junior Kelsi Dunne is accustomed to getting the start and getting the job done. In a few cases this season the right-hander has been called upon out of the bullpen to give the Tide a lift in the circle and she has done exactly that. In relief Dunne is a perfect 3-0 with one save. She has pitched 13 2/3 innings and has allowed just two hits and sports a perfect ERA while striking out 26 and only walking two. Dunne has not allowed a hit in three different outings out of the pen and has been perfect on two occasions.

Alabama will have a week in between games as the Tide is slated to not play any midweek contests for the first time in a month. Alabama will hit the road after two weeks at home and head to rival Auburn for a three game conference series. The two instate conference foes will square off in a single game on April 2 and then a doubleheader on Saturday that will be aired on CSS.

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