Alabama Softball Preview: SEC Play Begins
Coach Patrick Murphy’s Alabama Crimson Tide heads into the opening SEC weekend with a 21-2 record including a 14-game winning streak.
The formula to Alabama’s hot start has been dominant pitching from the circle. Since the beginning of March, Crimson Tide pitchers have posted six shutouts in their last seven outings and have allowed just one run in that span.
Earlier this week, the Tide blanked Loyola-Chicago 5-0 and Valparaiso 1-0 to extend the streak of shutout wins to five consecutive games. Both Alexis Osorio and Sydney Littlejohn tossed complete games in wins in their respective starts on Tuesday and Wednesday. Osorio nearly tied her career-high with 18 strikeouts in her complete game against Loyola-Chicago while Littlejohn fanned 13 batters in Wednesday’s effort against Valparaiso.
Another aspect not to overlook from both Osorio and Littlejohn is their command from the circle. Osorio allowed only two base runners Tuesday night against Loyola-Chicago with the first occurring on a single in the second inning and the final instance happening thanks to a hit by pitch in the fourth inning. Meanwhile, Littlejohn surrendered four hits and an intentional walk in her victory against Valparaiso Wednesday night.
Heading into the weekend, Alabama’s dynamic duo from the circle paces the SEC and college softball in two important categories. Osorio leads college softball with 140 strikeouts while Sydney Littlejohn has an SEC-best 0.24 ERA.
Turnaround in Fayetteville
Alabama begins SEC play by hosting the Arkansas Razorbacks in a three-game weekend series from Rhoads Stadium. The Crimson Tide owns a commanding 53-8 lead in the all-time series but will face a highly improved Razorbacks squad.
In hear second season as Arkansas’s head coach, Courtney Deifel has led one of the biggest turnarounds in college softball. Last season, the Razorbacks won a total of 17 games. Coming into this weekend, Arkansas is 19-1 and is ranked No. 24 in this week’s ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 Poll.
Arkansas sits atop the SEC in multiple offensive categories including home runs (33), doubles (39) and runs scored (164). A large part of their offensive success is due to the efforts of Nichole Schroeder. The senior slugger leads the country in home runs (12) and RBIs (40).
Schroeder was recognized earlier this week as SEC Player of the Week and espnW and USA Softball National Player of the Week after hitting three round trippers (two grand slams) and plating 16 RBIs.
With the SEC play approaching, Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy emphasized the importance of starting SEC play with a series win at home during his visit Tuesday on “The Gary Harris Show”.
“One of our biggest things, especially in SEC play, is that we want to protect our home turf. It’s difficult enough to get a win on the road, but we need to win all our series at home.” Murphy said.
Alabama and Arkansas open SEC play Friday at 6:30 PM.
College Softball around Alabama
Auburn is ready to finish a 21-game home stand with a three-game series against LSU to open SEC play. Auburn dispatched defending SWAC Tournament champion Alabama State 14-0 in five innings in their most recent win. Heading into SEC play, pitchers Makayla Martin and Kaylee Carlson have maintained ERAs below 1.00. Martin has a 0.65 ERA while Carson’s ERA is at 0.65.
South Alabama and Troy start Sun Belt Conference play by hitting the road this weekend. The Jaguars take a four-game winning streak on the road to Georgia State while the Trojans attempt to put the brakes on a four-game skid at Georgia Southern.
UAB returns home to begin Conference USA play against Southern Miss. The Blazers saw their game at Jacksonville State washed out Wednesday due to rain. Last weekend, UAB won two of five games at the Bailey Memorial Tournament in Kennesaw, Georgia. The Blazers and Golden Eagles play a twin bill Saturday at 1 PM while wrapping up the series Sunday at 1 PM from Mary Bowers Field.
Jacksonville State, Samford and Alabama A&M will each participate in the Choccolocco Classic in Oxford, Alabama. The Gamecocks open the tournament Friday facing Missouri State and Loyola-Chicago while taking on Samford Saturday at 1 PM and Alabama A&M at 3:30 PM on Sunday. In addition to their game against Jacksonville State, Samford will battle Missouri State Saturday afternoon while playing Eastern Illinois and Tennessee State to close the weekend on Sunday. For Alabama A&M they will play Tennessee State, Eastern Illinois, SEMO and Belmont before closing the tournament against Jacksonville State.