Alabama Softball Team Set to Face Tennessee at WCWS

By: Kim Allen Email
By: Kim Allen Email

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The number two national seeded Alabama softball team (55-7) will face off against Southeastern Conference foe and number seven national seed Tennessee (52-12) in the opening round of the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City. The two teams will open up the tournament, with first pitch coming on Thursday, May 31, at 6 p.m. CT, on ESPN2. This is the second consecutive WCWS appearance for Alabama, and fourth in five years, while Tennessee is in Oklahoma City for the second time in three years.

The Alabama softball team hosted the NCAA Tuscaloosa Super Regional on Thursday and Friday against the University of Michigan, and won the best-of-three series in two games. On Thursday night, the Crimson Tide used a two-hit gem from Jackie Traina to knock off the Wolverines, 4-1, in front of a nationally televised audience on ESPN2. Traina struck out 10 batters for the third consecutive NCAA Tournament game, and didn't allow a run until the sixth inning in guiding the Tide to victory. In Friday's game, Alabama fell behind early, 3-1, due to some costly errors, but were able to start coming back in the fifth inning thanks to Kaila Hunt's 20th home run on the year. Hunt's two-run shot tied the score, and allowed her to become just the second UA player to ever hit 20 home runs in a season. Junior Kayla Braud came through with a clutch hit of her own, with a one-out triple down the right field line that scored pinch-runner Danielle Richard from third, giving the Tide a 4-3 victory and the berth in Oklahoma City. For the two games, senior Jennifer Fenton batted .571 (4-for-7) with a double and two runs scored. Traina pitched two complete games, as she struck out 15 batters and gave up just four runs in the two games, giving her a 37-2 record heading into the WCWS, one behind Shelley Laird's school record of 38 wins in 2000.

Alabama has been led during the postseason by a mix of its experience and some power from underclassmen. Senior Jennifer Fenton has been on an absolute tear since the postseason began, as she leads the Tide with a .647 (11-for-17) batting average and has scored a team-high seven runs in the five NCAA postseason games. Fenton has hit three doubles and stole three bases as well. Sophomore shortstop Kaila Hunt has been a run producing machine, as she has driven in 23 runs in her past 11 games, with eight of those games coming in postseason tournament play. Hunt has hit .333 (5-for-15) with two home runs and 10 RBI in the five NCAA Tournament games, as well as two doubles and has scored four times.

The Lady Vols of Tennessee enter the Women's College World Series with a 52-12 record after winning two out-of three games in the NCAA Super Regionals over Georgia on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday afternoon, the Lady Vols knocked off the Bulldogs, 3-2, holding on after giving up two runs in the top of the sixth inning. In game two on Sunday afternoon, Tennessee could manage just two hits as they fell, 1-0, to force the `if necessary' game, also on Sunday afternoon. Tennessee scored two runs in the top of the sixth inning to prevail, 2-1, and advance to their fifth Women's College World Series. The Lady Vols are led by junior third baseman Raven Chavanne, who is batting .433 (78-for-180) with 32 stolen bases. Junior infielder Lauren Gibson leads the UT with 13 home runs, while sophomore Madison Shipman leads Tennessee with 63 runs batted in. In the circle, the Volunteers are led by sisters Ivy and Ellen Renfroe. Sophomore Ellen Renfroe is 27-4 on the year, with 276 strikeouts in 225 2/3 innings of work and a 1.18 ERA. Junior Ivy Renfroe has gone 25-8 with 194 strikeouts in 206 2/3 innings pitched and a 1.73 ERA. Tennessee is led by co-head coaches Ralph and Karen Weekly, who have gone 566-174-2 in 12 seasons in Knoxville.

Tennessee: Alabama has faced off against Tennessee 47 times and holds a 31-16 advantage over the Lady Vols. Jackie Traina threw 195 pitches and hit a walk-off solo home run, as Alabama knocked off the UT, 3-2, in 11 innings on March 21. In the second game, Tennessee was able to hold Alabama to just three hits, including a Kaila Hunt two-run home run, to deal Alabama its first loss of the season, 5-2. Alabama and Tennessee went head-to-head at the 2005 WCWS, when Tennessee defeated Alabama, 4-0.

Alabama will be making its eighth trip (2000, '03, '05-'06, '08-'09, '11 & '12) to Oklahoma City for the Women's College World Series, the most of any team in the Southeastern Conference. The Crimson Tide sports an 8-14 record at the WCWS, reaching the semifinal round in its last three appearances (2008-09 & 2011). The Crimson Tide has 15 players on the roster that have been to the WCWS with eight finding significant playing time. As a freshman, pitcher Jackie Traina earned two saves in the first two wins of the WCWS last season. Junior Kayla Braud is batting a team-high .364 (4-for-11) in WCWS play. Senior Jennifer Fenton follows with a .333 (6-for-18) average. Five Tide players have tallied 10 or more at-bats in Oklahoma City. Senior Jazlyn Lunceford hit one of the greatest home runs in Alabama history as she smacked a pinch-hit grand slam in the fourth inning against Arizona State on May 30, 2009, to give the Tide a 6-2 win. That win came on the heels of a 14-0 drubbing of Arizona, handing the Wildcats their worst loss in WCWS history.

Alabama has played six games against teams that made the 2012 Women's College World Series. UA is 4-2 against the three different teams, defeating Oregon, 5-1, (March 13), splitting with Tennessee (W, 3-2, L, 5-3; March 21) and winning a three game series against LSU (W, 6-0, L, 3-2, W, 6-0; April 6-8). Alabama has outscored the field, 24-11 but has only hit at a .184 clip with six home runs and 21 RBI. The pitching has been stellar with a team ERA of 1.22. Jackie Traina is 4-0 with a 0.21 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 33 innings. Jennifer Fenton hit .313 (5-for-16) with four runs, a double, home run, three RBI and three stolen bases.

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