Alabama softball begins a stretch run of games that could determine their chances of winning an SEC regular season title and potential top eight seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

Coming into this week, the Crimson Tide is 42-4 overall, 11-4 in the SEC and is ranked 11th in this week's NCAA RPI rankings.

Most importantly, the Tide sits atop the SEC standings just a few percentage points ahead of LSU. Prior to the season, the coaches predicted Alabama to finish eighth in the league. According to head coach Patrick Murphy, that eighth place prediction has been a motivating factor to the team's hot start and their drive toward a strong finish.

"We have a big fat number eight hanging in our clubhouse meeting room because that was where the coaches predicted us, and it's served as motivation from day one." Murphy said.

Montana Fouts Returns to the Circle vs. Georgia

Alabama enjoyed a successful weekend against Georgia with a three-game sweep and the return of one of college softball's top freshman athletes.

Montana Fouts got the start in Monday's series finale and put on a show for the spectators at Rhoads Stadium. The freshman phenom allowed a lead-off single but retired 12 batters in a row with seven of those coming on strikeouts in four scoreless innings.

Following Monday's 4-3 win over Georgia, head coach Patrick Murphy discussed the reaction to Fouts's return inside the clubhouse prior to the game

"When I said Montana (Fouts) was getting the start, it was like Christmas morning." Murphy said.

Sarah Cornell Earns SEC Pitcher of the Week Honors

Crimson Tide Photos/UA Athletics

Earlier in the week, the Southeastern Conference office named Sarah Cornell named as the conference's pitcher of the week.

The transfer from Hofstra pitched brilliantly against the Georgia Bulldogs notching two wins while allowing just one run in 9.1 innings from the circle.

Cornell pitched arguably her best game of the season out of the bullpen Monday night as she retired all seven batters that she faced.

According to Murphy, the junior pitcher recognized the moment, provided the final boost of energy for the team and got the job done to complete the sweep.

"She's so energetic and fun to watch. She comes in and I think everybody just feeds off of her. She could tell it was a big time moment, and she wanted to really save it for Courtney (Gettins). She put zeroes up and then we scored a run in the bottom of the seventh, and that's what a reliver is supposed to do" Murphy said..

Easter Weekend at Florida

Following a weekend sweep against Georgia, Alabama faces one of the hottest teams in college softball in the Florida Gators (37-9, 9-6 SEC).

Florida has won eight in a row including weekend sweeps of Arkansas and Texas A&M along with mid-week wins over South Florida and Florida State.

For the past four seasons, Kelly Barnhill has distinguished herself as one of the SEC's and college softball's top pitchers. Going into the series, the Marietta, Georgia, native has a 25-6 record with a 1.46 ERA along with 251 strikeouts including 17 in Florida's series opener at Ole Miss March 29.

In his description of Barnhill as one of the sport's hardest throwers, Murphy discussed what Alabama's offense needs to do against her at the plate.

"We have to lay off the balls, the high pitches and then be on time with everything else." Murphy said.

For the Crimson Tide's pitchers, throwing strikes and preventing the big play are among Murphy's highest priorities for the series.

"Keep the ball in the park, throw strikes, get ahead of hitters and then again on the 0-2 or the 1-2, the 0-2 or 1-2 need to be really, really quality pitches. If they're too big of a miss, they're not going to swing." Murphy said.

Alabama's head softball coach also mentioned some areas that the team can improve upon from the Georgia series for the upcoming trip to Gainesville.

"We still have some things to work on. Our execution can be better. Our butting game was not very good at all against Georgia. We still need to score some more runners that are in scoring position which is easier said than done. It takes a strong willed kid to get a two-out RBI, and we're still looking for that." Murphy said.

Weekend Schedule

Friday

Florida vs. Alabama 4:30 PM (ESPN2)

Florida vs. Alabama (30 minutes following game one)

Saturday

Florida vs. Alabama 1 PM (ESPN)