Softball Preview: #4 Alabama Hosts #11 Kentucky on Alumni Weekend [Audio]
The Alabama Crimson Tide prepares for another top 15 opponent as the Kentucky Wildcats come into Tuscaloosa for a pivotal SEC series.
It seems that every SEC weekend for Alabama this season carries ramifications relative to positioning in the SEC standings.
Coming into this weekend, Kentucky is percentage points ahead of Alabama in the SEC standings with third place Kentucky at 12-5 in the conference while Alabama is fifth at 10-5 in conference play.
Both Alabama and Kentucky are playing their best softball of the year as Alabama has won four straight SEC series while Kentucky swept LSU in Baton Rouge two weeks ago and followed it up with a series win at home against Missouri. Kentucky has recorded shutouts in their last four road games including their road sweep in Baton Rouge where they shutout LSU in all three games.
The other shutout came Wednesday in a 5-0 victory at Western Kentucky. Junior Meagan Prince pitched a complete game shutout allowing one hit and striking out eight HIlltoppers.
Senior Kelsey Nunley along with Prince form one of the SEC’s most underrated pitching combinations in the circle. Prince is 17-3 while Nunley is 17-4. Both pitchers have eclipsed the 100 strikeout mark with Nunley second, in the SEC with 159 strikeouts.
Wednesday night, Alabama held off South Alabama 4-2 with Syndney Littlejohn and Alexis Osorio performing well from the circle. Neither pitcher walked a South Alabama batter as Littlejohn allowed two runs on four hits while Osorio was dominant out of the bullpen. She fanned seven Jaguars batters in 2.2 scoreless innings.
Leona Lafaele picked up where she left off in College Station, Texas, by hitting her ninth home run of the season in the first inning Wednesday. Lafaele has been one of Alabama’s hottest hitters over the last week with five of her last seven hits leaving the yard.
Head coach Patrick Murphy chronicled the origins of Lafaele’s hot streak on the Gary Harris Show.
“I think what happened was when she did come in, she had a couple days and probably some time there just to realize that her time is short here.” Murphy said.
The Crimson Tide coach later recounted a conversation she had with the senior first baseman after her homer at Southern Miss.
“In the bottom of the seventh, I went over to her and I said, ‘What was different?’ She said, I just got up there and said, ‘I’m just going to hit the crap out of this ball and not think of anything.’” Murphy said.
With two great pitching teams, look for consistent fielding and timely hitting to be keys to victory during the series.
In addition to a big series on the diamond, Alabama softball will celebrate their 20th anniversary by hosting various former players from the previous 19 Crimson Tide softball teams with a pre-game tailgate Saturday.
College Softball Notes Around Alabama
-No. 2 Auburn split their final two non-conference games at home against #7 Florida State winning game one 9-6 but falling 4-3 in game two. Auburn entertains #12 Georgia
-Coming off a loss to Alabama, South Alabama looks to pad their NCAA Tournament resume as they travel to San Marcos, Texas, for a three-game series against Texas State. South Alabama has won their last five Sun Belt Conference series.
-Jacksonville State begins a seven-game road trip with weekend twin bills at Austin Peay Saturday and at Murray State Sunday. Jacksonville State leads the OVC with a 17-0 conference record and has won 19 of their last 20 games.
-Samford began a stretch of six straight non-conference games with a pair of wins over Austin Peay Wednesday. The Bulldogs have this weekend off from SoCon play but hit the road to face Western Kentucky in a Saturday doubleheader.
-The North Alabama Lions close the regular season with a three-game road series at Christian Brothers. The Lions are ranked fifth in NCAA Division II and have already clinched the Gulf South Conference regular season title.