Alabama softball set to host NCAA Regional in Tuscaloosa - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Alabama softball set to host NCAA Regional in Tuscaloosa

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The Alabama softball team (42-13) is making its 15th trip to the NCAA Tournament as the Crimson Tide will host the Tuscaloosa Regional this weekend at Rhoads Stadium. UA is hosting a regional for the 11th time overall and ninth time in a row. Tournament action will begin on Friday, May 17, as Western Kentucky (41-16) will face USC Upstate (41-10) at 3:30 p.m. CT. Alabama and Jacksonville State (30-25) will follow at 6 p.m.

LAST TIME OUT
Alabama went 1-1 at the Southeastern Conference Tournament this past weekend in Lexington, Ky. The Crimson Tide pulled out a thrilling, 10-9, walk-off victory against Texas A&M in the opening round and then fell to eventual champion Florida, 8-4, in the quarterfinals. Alabama batted .298 with two home runs and scored 14 runs in the two games but allowed 17 runs, a .333 opponent's batting average and had an 8.08 ERA. Senior Kayla Braud led the Tide offensively with a .667 (4-for-6) average, adding two runs and a RBI. Freshman Haylie McCleney batted .500 in the tournament on the strength of a 4-for-4 effort against Texas A&M.

WHO TO WATCH
Alabama senior outfielder Kayla Braud is currently riding a 20-game hitting streak, that started on March 30 at Texas A&M. Braud tallied a hit in every game she played in the month of April. Over the streak the fleet-footed outfielder is batting .529 (36-for-68) with 22 runs, eight RBI, four doubles and seven stolen bases. This is the second longest hitting streak for the All-American as Braud put together a 28-game streak that spanned from the end of her freshman campaign to early in her sophomore season. She also hit in 19-straight in 2011.

SCOUTING THE COMPETITION

Western Kentucky (No. 2 Seed): The Lady Toppers enter Tuscaloosa making their first ever NCAA tournament appearance after winning the Sun Belt regular season title and compiling a 41-16 overall record. WKU has a .286 average, has hit 47 home runs and stolen 80 bases in 92 attempts while outscoring their opponents, 277-144. In the circle the Lady Toppers sport a 2.07 ERA and have struck out 290 in 379 innings pitched while holding opponents to a .218 average. Individually Olivia Watkins paces WKU at the plate with a .385 average, 47 runs and 36 stolen bases in 41 attempts. Preslie Cruce is hitting .320 with 12 home runs and 33 RBI while Amanda Thomas has provided the punch with 14 home runs and 51 RBI. Head coach Tyra Perry is in her sixth season on the Hill and has compiled a 194-144-1 record.

USC Upstate (No. 3 Seed): The Spartans enter the NCAA tournament with a 41-10 overall record, reaching the 40-win mark for the third time in the last four years. Upstate claimed the A-Sun Tournament title to earn the automatic bid. The Spartans, who have been ranked this season, showcase a .331 average, hitting a school record 54 home runs and outscoring their opponents, 444-255. In the circle Upstate has a 2.25 ERA and has struck out 334 in 326 2/3 innings while holding opponents to a .213 average. The Spartans also boast the nation's best defense with a .983 fielding percentage. Individually Upstate is led by Meredith Barnes and Maddison Kieffer. Barnes leads the team with a .380 average, adding 12 home runs and 39 RBI. Kieffer closely follows with a .378 average, adding six home runs and 37 RBI. Shellie Robinson has provided the punch with 12 home runs and 46 RBI while posting a .347 average. Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins is in his 19th season in Spartanburg, posting a 680-297-1 overall record.

Jacksonville State (No. 4 Seed): The Gamecocks make another trip to NCAA play, the fifth for JSU in its last six seasons. The Gamecocks sport a 30-25 overall record and earned the automatic bid by winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. Offensively JSU is batting .275 with 35 home runs and 33 stolen bases. The Gamecocks have outscored their opponents, 270-238. In the circle JSU has a 3.32 ERA and has struck out 332 in 377 innings while allowing opponents to hit .272. Individually JSU is led by Sara Borders and Krystal Ruth. Borders leads the team in nearly all offensive categories with a .366 average, 17 doubles, 11 home runs, 41 RBI and eight stolen bases. Ruth follows with a .341 average, a team-best 43 runs and 77 hits while adding three home runs and 27 RBI. In the circle, Tiffany Harbin is 17-13 with a 2.64 ERA. She has struck out 261 in 222 1/3 innings. Head coach Jana McGinnis is in her 20th year at JSU and has compiled a 686-312 overall record.

SERIES HISTORY

Western Kentucky: Alabama and Western Kentucky has met four times with the Crimson Tide holding a 4-0 advantage. The two teams last met on Feb. 24, 2007, in Tuscaloosa, highlighted by a 3-for-4 performance at the plate by Jordan Praytor.

USC Upstate: This could potentially be the first meeting between the two programs.

Jacksonville State: The two instate foes have met 16 times with the Crimson Tide taking all 16, including 10 games in Tuscaloosa. The two last met earlier this season on April 2, in an 11-3 Alabama run-rule victory. Senior Lauren Sewell earned the win in the circle, allowing three runs on five hits while striking out seven in 3 1/3 innings. Freshman Haylie McCleney batted 4-for-4 with three runs and two RBI while junior Jackie Traina and sophomore Jadyn Spencer drove in three apiece.

ALABAMA IN NCAA TOURNAMENT PLAY
The Crimson Tide earned its 15th consecutive NCAA tournament bid in 2013. In just 17 years of existence, the Alabama softball program is about to play in its 15th NCAA Regional and has played in eight Super Regionals. The Tide has advanced to an NCAA Regional in every season under head coach Patrick Murphy. The Crimson Tide have a 64-29 record in NCAA tournament action (including regional (38-9), super regional (13-5) and World Series (13-15)) and have won 10 NCAA Regional titles (2000, `03, `05, `06, `07, `08, `09, `10, `11 & `12), including eight in a row and six Super Regional titles (2005, '06, '08, '09, '11 & `12). This is the ninth consecutive year Alabama has been selected to host an NCAA Regional and 11th overall.

ALABAMA VERSUS THE NCAA FIELD
Alabama enters the Tuscaloosa Regional with a 20-12 record against teams that made the 2013 NCAA tournament field. UA is 9-5 against tournament teams at Rhoads Stadium. The Tide is batting .302 with 28 home runs and 35 stolen bases while outscoring its opponents, 186-121. Tide pitchers have a 3.40 ERA and have struck out 196 in 214 innings while holding opponents to a .245 batting average. Individually senior Kayla Braud leads Alabama in those games with a .464 average (52-for-112), scoring 32 runs and stealing 16 bases. Freshman Haylie McCleney closely follows with a .417 average (43-for-103) with a team-high 33 runs while adding 17 RBI and seven stolen bases. Junior Jackie Traina is 10-6 in the circle with a 3.12 ERA. She has struck out 135 in 130 1/3 innings and held opponents to a .230 average.

ALABAMA IN NCAA REGIONAL PLAY
Alabama is 38-9 all-time in NCAA regional play and boasts a 29-3 record at home. The Crimson Tide has won 19 straight regional games, with its last loss coming in a 4-2 defeat to Tennessee Tech on May 18, 2007. Over that 19-game stretch, Alabama has earned eight run-rule victories and outscored its opponents, 158-30. Senior Kayla Braud leads the team with a .448 average in nine career regional games played. She has scored 11 runs and stolen 11 bases. In the circle, junior Jackie Traina is 3-0 with a 0.68 ERA, striking out 31 in 20 2/3 innings while holding opponents to a meager .059 average.

RPI
In the eighth installment of the RPI, the Alabama softball team checks in at No. 5 overall, moving up one spot from last week. Seven Tide opponents reside in the top 25, while five check in at the top 10.

FOUR NAMED TO THE NFCA ALL-REGION FIRST TEAM
The Alabama softball team had four players selected to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-South Region team, the organization announced. All four Crimson Tide representatives earned first team honors as senior Kayla Braud (Eugene, Ore.) juniors Kaila Hunt (Evans, Ga.) and Jackie Traina (Naples, Fla.) and freshman Haylie McCleney (Morris, Ala.) nabbed the accolades.

ALABAMA EARNS SEVEN SEC HONORS
The Alabama softball team earned seven Southeastern Conference honors the league office announced. Senior Kayla Braud, junior Kaila Hunt and the freshmen tandem of Haylie McCleney and Andrea Hawkins were recognized by the SEC. Braud was named to the first team and the all-defensive team while Hunt earned second team accolades. McCleney was also named to the second team, all-freshmen team and all-defensive team while Hawkins garnered all-freshmen team honors.

TWO NAMED TO THE CoSIDA ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT TEAM
The Alabama softball team had two student-athletes named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District 4 team, the organization announced. Senior outfielder Kayla Braud (Eugene, Ore.) and junior infielder Kaila Hunt (Evans, Ga.) earned the honors for the Crimson Tide. Braud earns all-district honor for the third straight season while Hunt nabs the accolade for the second straight year.

IAMURRI NAMED TO THE SEC COMMUNITY SERVICE TEAM
Alabama junior infielder Ryan Iamurri has been a mainstay in the Tuscaloosa community, helping with numerous projects though SAAC and on her own. Iamurri has helped with the Field of Angels, which is an organization that helps disabled or mentally handicapped kids play baseball. She has also worked at the University RISE Program, volunteered in a kindergarten class, and worked with Project Angel Tree and the annual Halloween Extravaganza. Iamurri also coaches little league. She was elected the SAAC president for the next academic year.

ALABAMA IN THE SEC
The Crimson Tide is ranked third in batting average in the SEC with a .328 mark and fourth in runs scored (382). With 59 home runs Alabama is tied for fourth in the SEC. The Tide has the second highest amount of hits with 483 and is second in the stolen base categories reaching 110-of-125 times. With 334 RBI the Tide comes in fourth in the SEC.

INDIVIDUALLY IN THE SEC
Freshman Haylie McCleney is second in the SEC with a .471 batting average and fourth in on base percentage (.540). Her 63 runs rank second in the league and she is tied with senior Kayla Braud with 80 hits for third. Braud is also third in batting average with a .460 mark. She has reached 36-of-40 attempts stealing which puts her second in the SEC.

ALABAMA IN THE NCAA
The Crimson Tide softball team ranks seventh in the nation in scoring with 382 runs in 55 games. Alabama is 10th in stolen bases per game with 1.98. Freshman Haylie McCleney is tied for fourth in the nation in batting average with a .471 clip. Senior Kayla Braud is ninth with a .460 batting average. McCleney is seventh in the nation with 63 runs (1.15pg). 

NEXT TIME OUT
Alabama is paired up with the Knoxville Regional which features Tennessee, NC State, James Madison and Longwood. If the Tide and Lady Vols were to win their respective regionals, the Super Regional would be played in Knoxville as Tennessee holds the No. 7 national seed.

Source:  www.rolltide.com

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