Alabama Hosts UT In Key Series

The Florida softball team is expected to win the remainder of its games and finish with a 21-4 Southeastern Conference record. That would be an .840 winning percentage. Will that be good enough to win the SEC Championship?

The Alabama team of Coach Patrick Murphy can have something to say about that. Bama is in control of its own destiny (weather permitting) as the Crimson Tide attempts to capture its second SEC title.

Alabama is leading the SEC race with two weekends to play. Bama has an 18-4 record while Florida, which has been rained out three times, has a 15-4 record. If both teams win out, Alabama will have a 24-4 mark and a winning percentage of .857, taking the regular season championship and earning the number one seed for the SEC Tournament.

There is quite a hurdle in front of Alabama, though.

While most consider Alabama and Florida to be the top teams in the league, Tennessee is at 15-5 in the conference and not out of the race for the championship. This weekend, the number four ranked Crimson Tide hosts Tennessee with a doubleheader on Saturday and a single game Sunday. Saturday's games are at 4 p.m. CDT and 6:30 p.m. CDT (the evening game to be televised by ESPN). The Sunday game will begin at 3 p.m. and be televised by ESPNU.

One danger is the weather forecast, which has good chances for rain Saturday and Sunday.

Alabama is 40-9 overall, while the Vols are 39-9.

Alabama finished the month of April with a 16-0 record, the final win of the month coming Wednesday night in a surprising 13-1 romp over Georgia Tech, a team ranked seventh in the nation.

The Lady Vols did not play a midweek game this week but are coming off a weekend split against Florida. UT fell in the series opener, 6-0 but rallied late against the Gators to earn a 4-3 win in the second contest. The final game was rained out.

As a team Tennessee is hitting .338 and sports a 2.56 ERA while out-scoring its opponents 334-139. Leading the way at the plate for the Lady Vols is freshman Raven Chavanne and her .500 batting average. Chavanne leads the team with 79 hits, 53 runs and 30 stolen bases. Providing the punch for UT is Jessica Spigner and her team-best eight home runs and 49 RBI. Spigner adds a .375 batting average and a .650 slugging percentage. In the circle Ivy Renfroe leads the team with a 2.15 ERA and a 23-3 record. She has struck out 168 in 163 innings and has held opposing batters to a .212 average. Cat Hosfield is 15-5 with a 3.02 ERA and has struck out 106 in 134 1/3 innings.

The two programs have met 40 times with Alabama holding a 26-14 advantage.

The Alabama softball program enters the weekend with 697 wins, three away from win number 700. The program is also just two wins away from victory number 300 in SEC games as it enters the series with 298. Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy is also nearing a milestone as the coach sits at 648 wins, just two shy of win number 650.

Alabama ranks fifth in the country in home runs per game with 1.71 and scoring (7.21). The Tide also checks in at No. 6 in slugging percentage with a .586 mark while ranking ninth in stolen bases per game (2.27). Freshman Kayla Braud ranks sixth in the nation with her .490 batting average and seventh in runs per game (1.19) while Cassie Reilly-Boccia checks in at No. 5 in walks per game (1.00). Senior Charlotte Morgan ranks fourth in RBI per game with 1.23, 16th in walks (0.88) and 15th in home runs (15). Junior pitcher Kelsi Dunne ranks fifth in the country with an 11.6 Ks per seven innings and her 233 strikeouts rank 25th in the country.

In conference play the Alabama bats have come alive as the Tide ranks atop the league in 10 offensive categories including: batting average (.331), slugging percentage (.623), on base percentage (.463), runs (179), hits (186), RBI (158), home runs (41), walks (124), total bases (350) and stolen bases (46). In the circle Alabama paces the conference in strikeouts (170), batter struck out looking (58) and opposing batting average (.204).

Individually, Kayla Braud ranks second in the league in batting average (.507) and leads the league in runs (31). Senior Charlotte Morgan paces the conference with 32 RBI and eight home runs and also leads in slugging percentage (.961), walks (26) and on base percentage (.598). Cassie Reilly-Boccia is tied with her teammate in walks with 26. In the circle Kelsi Dunne leads the league with 107 strikeouts, 34 looking and also leads the conference with a .152 opponent batting average.

Alabama will wrap up its regular season on the road with a weekend SEC series against Mississippi State in Starkville. The Tide will open the weekend with a doubleheader against the Bulldogs on Saturday, May 8 with the first game slated to start at 1 p.m. The two teams will wrap up the series on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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