The second national seed Alabama softball team used a two-hit pitching gem from Jackie Traina and some clutch hitting to win game one of its Super Regional over Michigan, 4-1, in front of 2,475 fans at Rhoads Stadium. With the win, Alabama improves to 54-7 on the year, while Michigan falls to 42-16. The victory also moves the Tide to 12-5 in NCAA Super Regional games. "Overall, I was very pleased with the win," Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. "It's nice to get the first one in a two-out-of-three."
Alabama used another strong pitching performance from right-handed ace Jackie Traina, as well as a three-run fifth inning to beat the Michigan Wolverines 4-1 in front of 2,475 fans at Rhoads Stadium and put the Tide one win away from a berth in the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City. "It’s nice to get the first one in a two out of three, this is the key," Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. "Jackie gutted it out a little bit, and we had some big RBIs from Conley, Hunt and Lunceford." Traina allowed just three hits and only one earned run in seven innings and struck out ten batters to get her 36th win of the year. But the sophomore walked four batters, putting her in a couple of jams in the otherwise-dominant performance.
The University of Alabama softball team wasn't in a forgiving mood Thursday night. Michigan's sins were small - a wild pitch here, a walked batter there, a missed catch - but Alabama made the Wolverines pay in a 4-1 victory at Rhoads Stadium in the opening game of the Tuscaloosa Super Regional. Alabama, the No. 2 national seed, is one victory away from the program's eighth trip to the Women's College World Series and fourth in the last five years. Michigan must beat the Tide twice today to stave off elimination. "They took advantage of every mistake we made," Michigan coach Carol Huthins said.
The crowd 2,475 at Rhoads Stadium on Thursday evening saw the softball prequel to the highly-anticipated Alabama-Michigan football season opener. What they witnessed started as the softball equivalent of three yards and a cloud of dust, but ended with a little SEC speed. Alabama’s big fifth inning pushed the second-ranked Tide within a game of the Women’s College World Series with a 4-1 win. The NCAA super regional beating was slow and lumbering until Kaila Hunt stepped to the plate with two runners on and one out in the fifth. "It’s not pressure, I wouldn’t say, because if you get caught up in the pressure, you’re not going to perform," Hunt said.
Every cliche in golf reinforces the notion. You play one shot at a time, one hole at a time, one round at a time. But it had to be hard for the University of Alabama women's golf team on Thursday. As they reached the closing holes of the back nine, the Crimson Tide found itself holding a 15-stroke lead - more than two touchdowns, in more familiar Alabama parlance - in the NCAA Championship. A runaway, unlikely in such an event, seemed possible. Even the elements seemed primed to cooperate. "Actually, through 14 holes, we had a 15-shot lead and the wind had died down," Tide coach Mic Potter said. "I don't know if we were holding on a little too tight but they've got to realize and understand that you have to play the entire round." In the figurative twinkling of an eye - the final four holes of the third round - the runaway was shifted into reverse. Par for the Tide's five golfers over the closing stretch was 80. Alabama shot a 93. The 15-shot lead that had seemed so promising was whittled down to a slim two strokes going into today's final round. All is not lost, of course. Alabama still leads the event. But it will have to play the way it did on the first two days in order to win its first national championship in golf.
We might be 100 days away from Alabama's Dallas-based season opener against Michigan, but only a few days remain before a number of the Crimson Tide's class of 2012 gets on campus for summer semester. Alabama certainly has some enviable depth at most positions, but even the defending national champions are open to getting by with a little help from some new blood. "There's always opportunity for freshmen," coach Nick Saban said at last week's Crimson Caravan stop in Florence. "Obviously, the more new players you have, the younger your team is, I think that probably creates a little more opportunity some times. I think there's definitely some opportunity. "We had two guys for sure, new guys in the spring, take advantage of their opportunities. (T.J.) Yeldon and Deion Belue, for sure. I think there will be some other guys that provide some depth and can satisfy some need and role to help our team improve and be better."
The honor is just the latest in a long line for the Alabama senior. He was not only a unanimous first-team All-American and the Outland Trophy winner, but he also claimed Alabama's Paul W. Bryant Award, an honor bestowed upon the school's top male and female student-athletes for 2011-12. He'll be taking on a new role in 2012, replacing the departed William Vlachos while sophomore Cyrus Kouandjio slides into Jones' old spot at left tackle. "I really do think he got more and more comfortable with every practice and every rep," Saban said near the end of spring practice. "I'm very, very comfortable with where he is right now at that position in terms of knowledge and experience. Snapping the ball has not been a problem. We're pleased with the progress that he's made."
After taking several unofficial visits during the spring, including a trip to Alabama for the A-Day spring game, Foster is beginning to make plans for his official visits in the fall and while he has yet to determine which five schools will receive those visits, Foster's coach tells 247Sports that there is one school guaranteed to receive an official visit. "Alabama may be his only official one definitely," said Mark Lyons, Foster's head coach at Central Valley (Pennsylvania) High School. "I think we're going to let the summer finish out, and by the end of summer when we get into our official camp, he'll have an idea of where he's going to take those five official visits."
But, as a cursory glance at the top of the standings will reveal, strategy clearly matters, and it matters nowadays more than ever. In that vein I think the coaches doing really interesting stuff are guys like Chip Kelly of Oregon and Dana Holgorsen, formerly of Oklahoma State and now of West Virginia, on the offensive side of the ball, and on defense I think Nick Saban of Alabama and Garry Patterson of TCU are the most fascinating to study. This doesn't mean they have a monopoly on good ideas or schemes -- except maybe in the case of Saban and his talent laden teams
"Here’s my last thing to you," Jim Brown said. "I think Richardson is a fine young man. I think he’s a good all-around football player. But from my standpoint, that’s ordinary. You talk about someone that’s going to move or light up the franchise or create a certain kind of thing, that’s what I’m talking about. I’m not trying to be mean. There are certain people you look at and there’s something special about them. I don’t see it."
When is a brand new contract not exactly a ringing endorsement of a coach? When that coach, heading into his 12th season at the school and coming off that school’s first appearance in the SEC championship game in six years, doesn’t get any more guaranteed money in his new deal. Some of the details of Georgia coach Mark Richt’s new contract started to trickle out Thursday following the UGA Athletic Association board of directors meeting in Greensboro, Ga. The headline grabber was that Richt’s salary would essentially stay the same, according to Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity, although Richt’s incentives package will be sweetened.
Pinkel understands that Mizzou is a foreign program to a lot of southeastern prospects, but slowly he expects that feeling to disappear. He experienced it recruiting the state of Texas as Toledo’s coach and when he first arrived at Mizzou, but saw it turn around twice. Pinkel said his first Mizzou roster had around 10 or 11 players from Texas and now has more than 30. Once southeastern players get to know his program, Pinkel insists Mizzou will be more appealing to recruits in this talent-rich part of the country. "We've been here before," he said. "We understand it's a process. "I also think we walk in the door with some credibility -- winning and success and graduating our players. In the last five years or six years -- I'm not sure what it is -- we're the eighth winningest BCS program in the country and we're graduating in the last six years 96 percent of our players. Those are facts."
The Big 12/SEC decision to create a "Champions Bowl" in an effort to match the Pac-12/Big Ten's Rose Bowl ties might have just backfired. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that the "Champions Bowl" was a "game-changer" and that it might have reopened the door for the previously tabled idea of a plus-one game to determine college football's national champion. "I'd say before Friday that idea of a plus-one didn't have much traction, but I think the announcement on Friday's a game-changer," Scott told the Wall State Journal. "We're pretty far down the path on four-team playoff options, but given the very positive reaction to what the SEC and Big 12 have done, it's possible that (a plus-one) could get some traction."