TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The top-ranked Alabama softball team (22-0) will meet rival Florida (22-1) in a rare non-conference affair on Wednesday, March 6 at Rhoads Stadium. First pitch for the two powerhouses is set for 6 p.m. Chad Haynie and former Alabama All-American Whitney Larsen will have the call on WDGM 99.1 FM and on TideTV.
LAST TIME OUT
The top-ranked Alabama softball team continued its dominance during tournament play, claiming its 13th straight title, after winning the Easton Classic this past weekend. Before entering the weekend to open the tournament, Alabama defeated Samford, 11-0 and then downed South Alabama, 4-0. The Tide played a total of six games this past week in four days, all of which were contested at Rhoads Stadium. Alabama outscored its opponents, 55-9, hit .372 and sported a 0.39 ERA. Opponents hit only .131 and pitched at a 9.09 clip.
WHO TO WATCH
Sophomore third baseman Danielle Richard took full advantage of her increased playing time by leading the Crimson Tide to a 6-0 week. Richard paced the Tide with a .643 average, nine hits, two home runs and six runs while adding five RBI and four stolen bases. Richard was named the Easton Classic MVP after batting .800 in the tournament with four runs, a home run and three RBI. The Priceville, Ala., native tallied a hit and scored a run in all but one game, had two multi-run and multi-hit games. Against St. John's, Richard batted 3-for-3 with two runs, two RBI and two stolen bases. The next day she bested that performance against the Red Storm with a 4-for-4 effort from the plate, adding a run, a stolen base and four assists from the hot corner. The 5-2 infielder provided quite the punch, slugging 1.143 on the week.
The Gators enter Tuscaloosa with only one blemish on their record, a 4-3, extra-inning loss to highly ranked Missouri in Palm Springs. Florida heads into the week with a .296 batting average, hitting 34 home runs while stealing 60 bases. In the circle, the Gators sport a 1.32 team ERA and have struck out 170 in 153 2/3 innings pitched. Opponents are only hitting .185 against the Gators. Individually, Florida is paced by Kelsey Stewart and her .422 average. Stewart has tallied 35 hits, 24 runs and stolen 19 bases. Lauren Haeger has provided the punch, smashing six home runs with 27 RBI while adding a .379 average. In the circle, Hannah Rogers has logged the most innings, sporting a 1.24 ERA with a 10-1 record. Rogers has fanned 73 in 73 2/3 innings while opponents have hit .190 against the right-hander. Tim Walton is in his eighth season in Gainesville, accumulating a 401-94 mark while managing the Gators.
The two SEC powerhouses will be meeting for the 54th time as Alabama holds a 30-23 advantage over Florida. After dropping the series opener last season, the Tide rallied to win the final two games of the series to claim the Southeastern Conference regular season title. The two teams would then meet in the SEC Tournament Championship game, as the Tide handed the Gators one of its biggest losses in series history, with a 10-1, run-rule victory behind the right arm of Amanda Locke and the bat of Kaila Hunt.
MURPHY CLOSING IN ON 800
Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy is rapidly closing in on 800 wins for his career. Murphy enters the week with a 794-218 record in 16 seasons, 15 while at the helm of the Crimson Tide. At Alabama, Murphy has accumulated a 766-198 record. He spent one season at Northwest Missouri State, where he went 28-20 in his first head coaching assignment.
Alabama has historically gotten off to fast starts and the 2013 campaign is no different as the Tide enters the week with a perfect 22-0 record. UA has started the season better than 5-0, nine times and has gotten off to at least a 10-0 start, eight times. The Tide has eclipsed the 20-win plateau four times, setting a school record with a 27-0 start in 2001. UA started 25-0 in 2007. Last year the Tide raced out to a 26-0 start.
Alabama put together one of its most successful seasons in front of the home faithful in 2012, posting a 34-4 record at Rhoads Stadium, losing to Tennessee, LSU, Georgia State and Florida. UA has won 25 or more games at Rhoads Stadium, 12 times and 30 or more seven times. The Tide finished 31-1 in 2009 and put together its most wins in 2007 with a 39-3 record. Overall Alabama has posted a 385-56 record at Rhoads Stadium and a 440-76 record in Tuscaloosa.
NEXT TIME OUT
Alabama will open Southeastern Conference play on the road as it will head to Knoxville to face highly ranked Tennessee. The three-game weekend series will start on Friday, March 8, with first pitch slated for 5:30 p.m. CT.