Alabama Softball Preview: SEC Tournament Time
No. 15/16 Alabama makes their second trip of the season to Knoxville for the 2017 SEC Softball Tournament.
The Crimson Tide enters the SEC Tournament as the fifth seed and will face the 12th seeded Arkansas Razorbacks Wednesday morning at 11 AM CT on the SEC Network.
Alabama has an all-time record of 36-23 in the SEC Tournament and has claimed five tournament titles in 1998, 2003, 2005, 2010 and 2012
Since 2012, Alabama has struggled in the SEC Tournament going 4-4 in their last eight SEC Tournament games and have not appeared in a tournament title games since 2012.
For the second consecutive season, the Crimson Tide will play on the opening day of the tournament.
Coming into tournament play, Alabama is ranked 14th according to this week’s NCAA RPI rankings. Regardless of the results in Knoxville, the Crimson Tide is a virtual lock for an NCAA Tournament bid. As Patrick Murphy explained to reporters on Monday, a good performance in the SEC Tournament could boost their resume toward hosting an NCAA Regional.
“We need to win, and it would very much help our chances for hosting a regional. Any win there is a big win for your resume because everybody’s basically in the top 35 of the RPI so every opponent is going to be a great opponent.” Murphy said.
Alabama’s head coach laid out some keys for success in Knoxville this week.
“I think we need to continue our momentum from Sunday. We had great pitching all weekend long. (Alexis) Osorio strikes out 32, just an unbelievable performance. I don’t think you’ll see anything like it for years, and (Marisa) Runyon, her two-run double was huge, but we need more of that.” Murphy said.
In addition to Marisa Runyon’s two-run double in Sunday’s win over Auburn, true freshman Gabby Callaway provided a spark in the Crimson Tide batting order with RBI singles on Saturday and Sunday against the Tigers.
During the series, she led the team with four hits and two-RBIs including back-to-back multi-hit games. The freshman slugger also drove in a pivotal RBI single that started a three-run rally with two-outs in Sunday’s win over Auburn.
After Sunday’s regular season finale, Patrick Murphy touched on Callaway’s preparation and how it helped her over the weekend.
“Unbelievable! She gets an opportunity and she comes through. We tell them all the time, ‘If you get the opportunity, you must be prepared’, and she was. She’s one of the hardest workers on the team. She comes early. She stays late and that was a key hit in the inning where we scored the three runs, and she battled her butt off to get that hit.” Murphy stated.
Different Arkansas Team
The Arkansas Razorbacks enter postseason play 31-21 with a 7-11 record in the SEC.
Throughout the season, the Razorbacks maintained their identity as one or the top power hitting teams in the conference. Arkansas finished the regular season as the SEC’s leader with 56 home runs as a team.
Individually, Nicole Schroder completed her final regular season in an Arkansas uniform as the conference leader with 15 round trippers.
While the long ball has been the mainstay of the 2017 Razorbacks, Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy touched on the changes seen in Arkansas’ lineup from the opening SEC series in Tuscaloosa to the opening SEC Tournament contest.
“I looked at some of their box scores from this weekend, and this looks like a totally different team, and I’m sure we’re going to look very different in their eyes. Their leadoff is different, all kinds of stuff is different because that was 21 games ago in SEC play.” Murphy said.
The winner of Wednesday’s game faces fourth seeded Texas A&M at 11 AM CT on the SEC Network.
SEC Postseason Awards
The SEC released their array of postseason awards to complete the 2017 season.
For Alabama, junior Alexis Osorio was named Second Team All-SEC while Elissa Brown and Bailey Hemphill were Freshman All-SEC selections.
College Softball around Alabama
Thanks to a strong finish in SEC play, No. 7/8 Auburn finished second in the conference and will face the winner of Kentucky vs. South Carolina at 4 PM on Thursday. Four Auburn players were nominated to All-SEC first of second teams. Pitcher Kaylee Carlson and catcher Carlee Wallace were first team selections while infielder Kasey Cooper and outfielder Alyssa Rivera were second team selections.
UAB lost two of three games at No. 23/24 Marshall to finish the regular season. Senior Mary Warren homered twice against Marshall including a grand slam in Saturday’s win in game one of the doubleheader. Junior catcher Molli Garcia received Second Team All-Conference USA honors. UAB opens C-USA Tournament play Wednesday at noon against Western Kentucky.
Jacksonville State returns to the diamond as the top seed in the OVC Tournament. The Gamecocks face eighth seeded Belmont at 5:30 PM from Oxford, Alabama. JSU did not play Saturday as their doubleheader at Tennessee Tech was rained out.
Samford begins Southern Conference Tournament play Wednesday morning at 9 AM against Mercer. The Bulldogs dropped two of three games at Western Carolina over the weekend. Junior Shelby Maze finished the regular season leading the NCAA with 83 hits. Along with Maze, senior Abby Miranda and sophomore Madison Couch were 1st Team All-SoCon selections.
Troy dropped their final two games of the season at home Sunday to South Alabama. South Alabama pitcher Devin Brown fanned 10 batters in a 2-0 win in game one of the twin bill while Kaleigh Todd went 2-5 with 3 RBIs in an 8-6 win to close the regular season. The Trojans are through for the season while South Alabama will takes on the winner of Coastal Carolina vs. UT-Arlington Wednesday at 3 PM in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.