Feb. 13, 2009

Courtesy of Alabama

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The No. 1 ranked Alabama softball team will host the BAMA Bash this weekend. The Crimson Tide will welcome three other teams to the Alabama Softball Complex for a total of eight games. Notre Dame (0-0), Wisconsin (0-4), and East Carolina (3-1) will head south for the tournament. The Crimson Tide will open play on Friday, Feb. 13 at 5:00 p.m. against the Fighting Irish.

Who to Watch
Newcomer Cassandra Reilly-Boccia had no problems adjusting to the collegiate game. The rookie helped lead Alabama to a perfect 4-0 record on the weekend. The Yorktown Heights, N.Y. native started in all four games and batted .667 (8-for-12) with two doubles and six RBI. Reilly-Boccia stepped right onto the collegiate stage and did not miss a beat as she collected two hits and drove in two runs in her first game in an Alabama uniform. She then followed that up with a 3-for-3 performance with three RBI in the night cap on opening day.

Scouting the Competition
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are coming off a 38-22-1 2008 season. ND placed fourth in the Big East and made a NCAA regional appearance. Notre Dame will make its season debut at the BAMA Bash. The Fighting Irish return Brittney Bargar and Jody Valdivia. Bargar had 30 wins and 244 strikeouts in 291.1 innings of work. At the plate ND returns Sadie Pitzenberger and her .343 batting average in 31 contests. Linda Cohen and her .302 average returns as well. Supplying the punch for the Fighting Irish is Christine Lux. The junior smacked 15 home runs and drove in 42 runs on top of a .277 average a year ago. ND returns 14 monogram winners and was tabbed third among league members in the BIG EAST Conference preseason poll for the 2009 campaign. Head coach Deanna Gumpf is 289-136-1 in seven seasons at Notre Dame.

Wisconsin: The Badgers head to Tuscaloosa with a 0-4 record after dropping all of its opening weekend games at the Cathedral City Kickoff in Palm Spring, Calif. The Badgers opened the season by getting shutout by Fresno State 5-0. UW then fell to Oregon State 4-3 to cap off opening day. The Badgers fell to No. 20 ranked Long Beach State 7-0 and then dropped a 13-12 decision to Boise State. After four games the Badgers are batting .278 with Letty Olivarez leading the way with a .462 batting average. Jennifer Krueger closely follows with a .455 average. In the circle the Badgers have a 7.46 ERA in 25.1 innings. Opponents sport a 3.86 ERA. Olivarez has started three of the four games and has a 7.36 ERA, striking out 14 in 14.2 innings. The Badgers return six starters this season, including Leah Vanevenhoven who made 48 appearances in the circle last year. She pitched seven complete games, and struck out 139 batters.

East Carolina: The Pirates enter the BAMA Bash with a 3-1 record after earning wins over Virginia and Middle Tennessee. ECU opened the season with a 9-1 win over the Cavaliers and then swept the Blue Raiders by the scores of 3-1 and 3-2 at the ECU Invitational. East Carolina received votes in both the USA Today/NFCA (four votes) and ESPN.com/USA Softball (two votes) preseason polls. The Pirates have not entered the Top 25 of the USA Today/NFCA poll since 2000 and have never been in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. ECU has relied on pitching to get the job done as the Pirates only hit at a .206 clip over the first four games. Behind the arm of Conference USA Pitcher of the Week Toni Paisley, the Pirates were able to secure the three wins. Paisley appeared in all four games for the Pirates, picking up two wins and a save. In her 16.1 innings of work, she struck out 18 batters and did not allow a walk. Leading the way at the plate is Marina Gusman-Brown and her .400 batting average. For the second-straight season, ECU was picked to finish as the runner-up behind Houston in the Conference USA Preseason Coaches’ Poll. The Pirates finished 2008 with a 37-30 overall record and a 10-12 conference mark and advanced to a NCAA regional.

Series History
Alabama will play a total of four games in the BAMA Bash. The Crimson Tide has faced all three teams in previous seasons. Alabama sports an overall record of 4-2 against the field. UA is 2-0 against Notre Dame, 2-1 against Wisconsin and 0-1 against East Carolina. The last time the Crimson Tide faced an opponent of the BAMA Bash field was in 2006 when UA defeated Notre Dame 4-3.

BAMA Bash History
The Crimson Tide has hosted the BAMA Bash every season since 1998 and has taken a liking to the home cooking of the historically early season home tournament. Overall Alabama sports a 48-7 record in BAMA Bash play, including a perfect 24-0 since 2004. The last time the Crimson Tide fell in a BAMA Bash contest was in 2003 by the score of 4-0 to Southern Illinois. Alabama has lost just once in the tournament in the last eight seasons. The Crimson Tide has earned five wins on six different occasions and the most losses came in the inception of the tournament in 1998 when UA posted a 3-3 mark at the Bash.

Another Tough Schedule
Alabama will play 19 games in 2009 against teams that are ranked or are were receiving votes in the preseason polls. The Crimson Tide played an impressive 19 teams in 2008 that qualified for the NCAA Tournament (including the NCAA Regional, Super Regional and WCWS). Alabama played 40 games against those NCAA Tournament teams and posted a 32-8 (.800) record. The 40 games against NCAA teams represented 60.6 percent of Alabama’s 2008 schedule. The Crimson Tide also faced seven of the 16 No. 1 regional seeds with an 11-6 mark in those games. UA also played four super regional teams with an 8-5 record.

2009 Strength of Schedule Here is a look at some of the top teams around the country:
Alabama 19
Oklahoma 18
Kansas 17
Washington 17
Oregon State 16
Arizona 16
Florida State 16
Tennessee 15
Jacksonville St.15
Kentucky 15
Fresno State 15

Based on 2009 Preseason Rankings including teams RV

Preseason Awards
Alabama enters the 2009 season with numerous players up for awards. Seniors Brittany Rogers and Kelley Montalvo along with junior Charlotte Morgan were named to the ASA Collegiate Player of the Year Watch List. Rogers, Montalvo, Morgan and Dunne were named to the Preseason All-SEC Team. Rogers was one of two players selected unanimously.

No. 1 Again
The Alabama softball team took over the top spot in both the USA Today/NFCA and ESPN.com/USA Top 25 polls, having turned in a 4-0 record during the opening weekend of the 2009 season. The No. 1 ranking marks the third year in a row that the Crimson Tide has earned the accolade. In the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll Alabama received 12 first-place votes while in the USA Today /NFCA poll the Tide received 14 first place votes.

Where they Rank after Week One
After week one of play the Crimson Tide leads the Southeastern Conference in hitting with a .417 batting average and ranks second in ERA with a 1.08 ledger. At the plate Alabama paces the SEC in on base percentage (.485), and ranks in the top three in runs scored (3rd, 35), hits (2nd, 48), RBI (3rd, 28), total bases (3rd, 62) and walks (2nd, 11). Alabama also paces the league on the base paths with 17 stolen bases in 18 attempts. In the circle UA leads the conference in win (4) and ranks second in strikeouts (28) and opposing batting average (.167). Ashley Holcombe has picked two runners off from behind the plate which is a league best. Brittany Rogers and her .700 average paces the league while teammate Cassandra Reilly-Boccia ranks second. The duo also leads the SEC in on base percentage with Reilly-Boccia holding the honors at .714 while Rogers follows at a .700 clip.

All-Americans Abound
The Alabama softball team had four players earn 2008 Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-America honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association The Crimson Tide led the nation with three first-team selections as Brittany Rogers, Charlotte Morgan and Kelley Montalvo were honored. Kelsi Dunne also garnered third-team honors. It marked the most first-team All-America selections in school history and tied the 2001 team with four total All-Americans. Rogers becomes a three-time All-American, while Morgan, Montalvo and Dunne all garnered their first honor.

Alabama in the NCAA Tournament
Alabama earned its 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament bid in 2008 and finished with a 58-8 overall record. In just its 12th year of existence, the Crimson Tide program has garnered 10 appearances in NCAA Regional play. The Tide has a 36-21 record in the NCAA Tournament (including regionals, super regionals and the WCWS). Alabama has won six NCAA Regional titles (2000, ‘03, ‘05, ‘06, ‘07 & ‘08) and three NCAA Super Regional championships (2005, ‘06 & ‘08). UA made its fifth appearance in the Women’s College World Series this season, including its third trip in the past four years.

Rogers Red Hot
Alabama center fielder Brittany Rogers finished the 2008 season with an amazing NCAA Tournament. She hit .567 (17 for 30) in three NCAA Regional games, two NCAA Super Regional games and the WCWS. During that time Rogers collected five doubles, an inside-the-park home run and swiped seven bases. She posted a .833 slugging percentage and a .606 on-base percentage. Rogers also passed Missouri’s Rhea Taylor for the NCAA stolen base lead with No. 58 in the super regional against Taylor’s Tigers. For the year, Rogers hit .452 with 98 hits, 79 runs scored, 13 doubles, a triple, home run, 22 RBI. She reached base at a .502 clip while still slugging .535. Rogers started the 2009 season just where she left off. In three games the All-American hit .700 (7-for-10) scored a team-leading six runs and was a perfect 6-for-6 on the base paths.

RBI Machine
Alabama’s first baseman and pitcher Charlotte Morgan was been an RBI machine as a sophomore. Her 79 runs batted in is an Alabama and Southeastern Conference single-season record. She surpassed Tennessee’s Kristi Durant, who had 77 in 2005. Morgan’s 79 RBI also led the NCAA in total RBI. In 2009 Morgan continued the trend by driving in five runs in the season opener behind a 3-for-5 effort from the plate that included a two-run home run and a two-run double.

Alabama’s roster was filled with outstanding talent from 1-9 in the lineup, but a few names stepped to the forefront and earned All-America honors in 2008.

•First baseman/pitcher Charlotte Morgan was one of 10 finalists for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year. The native of Moreno Valley, Calif., hit .417 with 19 home runs, 19 doubles and a school- and SEC-record 79 RBI, which led the nation in total RBI. A first-team Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-American, she was also 18-2 in the circle with a 1.27 ERA, while boasting a 10-1 record in SEC play with a 1.00 ERA that ranked second in the league.

• Pitcher Kelsi Dunne was named the SEC Freshman of the Year and earned first-team All-South Region honors. She also garnered honorable mention All-America honors from the NFCA. Dunne had a 26-6 overall record and a 1.44 ERA. She was second in the league with 114 Ks in conference games and has 275 in 41 total appearances this season that ranked fifth all time at Alabama. Her 26 wins is a UA freshman record and ranked fifth all time.

• Center fielder Brittany Rogers led the nation in stolen bases with 60, including a SEC-best 25 in league play. A first-team Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-American, she hit .452 and was second in the nation in runs scored with 79. Rogers on-base percentage was .502 while slugging .535. She finished the season with a 19-game hitting streak.

Kelley Montalvo is one of the best defensive players in the country with a staggering .983 fielding percentage at third base in 175 chances at the hot corner. Montalvo was a first-team All-American by the NFCA. She hit .373 with 15 doubles, two triples and 10 home runs while driving in 54 runs. Montalvo reached base at an astounding .511 clip with a .663 slugging percentage.

• Catcher Ashley Holcombe didn’t make All-American, but she did garner second-team NFCA All-South Region honors after an outstanding amazing behind the dish. She recorded a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in SEC play and ... She is also hitting .297 overall with seven home runs and 25 RBI. There have been just 20 stolen base attempts on the strong-armed backstop this season while throwing out six and picking off a school record seven. Missouri, who ranked second nationally in stolen bases entering the super regional, didn’t even attempt a stolen base on Holcombe.

Tide in the Rankings
The Crimson Tide ranked in the top 10 in eight categories in the NCAA’s final rankings last season. The Crimson Tide ranked second nationally stolen bases with 2.47 per game (163 of 186) and scoring (6.74). UA was third slugging percentage (.544) while also ranking third in winning percentage (.879). Alabama was fifth in doubles (1.79 or 118) and batting average (.324) while ranking 10th in home runs (1.17 or 77) and seventh in fielding percentage (.977).

Individually, Brittany Rogers led the nation in stolen bases, averaging .91 per game (60 for 66). Rogers was second in runs scored at 1.20 per game. She also ranked seventh in batting average (.452). Charlotte Morgan led the nation in total RBI with 79 while ranking second in RBI per game (1.22). She was 10th in home runs in total home runs with 19 and 15th in home runs per game (.29). Chrissy Owens was tied for 10th nationally in saves with five while Dani Woods ranked 24th in walks per game with .68.

SEC Chart Toppers
The University of Alabama played outstanding softball last season and it has shown in the SEC team statistics. The Tide paced the league in 12 offensive categories in conference games only, including; average (.332), slugging percentage (.598), on-base percentage (.433), runs (195), hits (238), home runs (43), doubles (54), stolen bases (68), total bases (429), walks (105), hit by pitches (27) and RBI (177).

Sold Out
The success of the UA softball program under head coach Patrick Murphy can be seen by simply looking around the Alabama Softball Facility. As the wins have, the Crimson Tide fan base has grown steadily. UA sold out for an NCAA record second straight season for season ticket sales. Last season UA set its single game attendance record on 10 different occasions and led the nation in both average attendance and total attendance at home.

Next Time Out
The Alabama softball team will once again hit the road and take its long trip of the season as the Crimson Tide heads to the Cathedral City Classic. Alabama will play a total of five games in three days in California with the first slated against BYU on Thursday, Feb. 19.