The number two seed Alabama softball team (56-7) had a big first inning that led to a 5-3 victory over Tennessee (52-13), in its opening round game of the Women's College World Series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday evening. With the win, the Crimson Tide moves into the winner's bracket for the second consecutive year. Sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina improved to 38-2 on the year, tying Shelley Laird for the most victories in a single season. Traina threw a complete game five-hitter, giving up the three runs while striking out eight batters. Ivy Renfroe took the loss for Tennessee, dropping to 25-9 on the season.
Cashing in on seven Tennessee walks and a hit by pitch, Alabama scored four runs before the Volunteers recorded an out. Cassie Reilly-Boccia’s bases loaded, three-run double ignited the first-inning rally. Traina drew a bases-loaded walk for a 4-0 lead. Leadoff hitter Kayla Braud scored two runs and collected three of ’Bama’s five hits to lead the Crimson Tide (56-7) to a first-round win for the second consecutive year.
Alabama, which won with five hits and seven walks, hadn't won a first-round game at the Women's College World Series in its first six appearances before breaking through last year. Now UA has done it two years in a row, and seems comfortable in the national championship spotlight. "With six seniors, they've been here three times," Murphy said. "They know the field. They know the crowd. "You get here, you want to play well. You want to do it. You want to just take it home. You get here enough times, it's like, OK, let's do this."
The Alabama softball team opened the Women's College World Series with fire in its eyes and thunder in its bats, sending seven players to the plate before Tennessee recorded an out. The SEC champion Crimson Tide (56-7) scored four runs and batted through the order in the first inning en route to a 5-3 victory over the Lady Vols (52-13) on Thursday in an opening-round game at the WCWS. "They came out on fire and attacking the ball,'' said UT co-head coach Ralph Weekly, who was 4-0 in WCWS openers. "This is the world series, there are no excuses. You have to come out ready to play. But we're not out of this, we're still playing.''
If anyone didn't know after that, Clifford, 26, leads Alabama faithful in Tide softball fandom. She's hard to miss in crimson and white overalls, red sunglasses and a bright pink sombrero. But why a pink sombrero? "Actually, it started with Alabama gymnastics when we beat Florida," Clifford said. "When we played Stanford in the Super Regionals, many years ago, we were losing and I ran to my car and I got this hat and we won the Super Regionals. "It's my good luck rally cap. I don't take it off."
At the BCS meetings last month, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick couldn't help but point out the collegiality among the group of conference commissioners. It was fairly astounding, Swarbrick said, considering the differing points of view of the power-brokers involved in creating college football's Final Four. At the time, it seemed the folks in charge would manage to peacefully hammer out a playoff system everyone could live with. With only three weeks until the June 20 deadline when conference leaders hoped to have a final playoff model to sell to television executives, the time for compromise draws near. Which is why it's so interesting that the chair of the SEC's presidents and chancellors group would draw a line in the sand on one of the most controversial issues. Florida president Bernie Machen said the SEC would not compromise on having the four highest ranked teams in the playoff rather than a group of conference champions. "We won't compromise on that," Machen said at the SEC spring meetings. "I think the public wants the top four. I think almost everybody wants the top four."
"I've thought about this: Suppose everybody says they're going to do this (playoff) and one or two say we're not going to do this," said Machen, who is on the BCS oversight committee. "I don't know what the next step is." Machen said the SEC is willing to compromise on other issues unrelated to the top four. He wouldn't go into specifics. "I think this has to be a consensus exercise," Machen said. "I think that's why the BCS has sort of worked is that everybody bought into it. I don't know quite how they got everybody together back in the day. I just don't foresee a strong-armed kind of solution. We're all going to have to, if necessary, compromise and get something we can all live with."
Q: It looks like a shift where the conferences and schools are exercising greater control over the postseason. This was created without a location or a TV network. Is this a significant model change for college football?
"One of the commissioners said the colleges should own and manage the postseason, and I agree with that. That's been happening to a certain extent, but I think there's a new attentiveness to it. A model, frankly, is the Rose Bowl, where the Big Ten and Pac-12 manage the Rose Bowl -- in conjunction with the Tournament of Roses people -- but they are heavily involved in managing that game. That will be the model of the future."
I'll state right up front that my sympathies are with the "Championship" model, for the simple fact that whatever differences exist between the top six teams in any given year are usually too negligible to leave to a poll or committee* or any combination thereof. Requiring (or at least strongly preferring) a golden ticket in the form of a conference title imposes a more consistent, more democratic and less arbitrary standard: You must win this to win that. That's even more true now that every major conference – pending the inevitable expansionof the Big 12 – is already or soon will be staging its own championship game, which ideally carries the stakes of a de facto play-in round.
But if you want a clue to where the antidote to the spread might reside, I'd suggest looking to the defense run by Alabama's Nick Saban. His team -- and more specifically, his defense -- is the obvious counter example to the above narrative of spread-as-dominating force. And a big part of that is the math: Through a combination of man coverage and some sophisticated pattern read techniques that enable him to play a Cover 3 yet not give up those easy throws to the seams, he can put only a single safety deep against run-first spread attacks and therefore still stack the box for the run game. Meyer and Saban traded wins and losses back and forth when the two of them were in the SEC, and the games were tough, hard-fought games. And, if Meyer wants to win a National Championship at Ohio State -- and given what a coach he is and the kind of talent he has and will bring in, that's clearly within reach -- it's highly likely he'll need to go through Saban to do it.
"(McCarron) wants to learn, he wants to be great," Nussmeier said. "He's done a great, great job of really getting into this offseason and looking at the season past, evaluating his strengths and his weaknesses, the things that he can really focus on moving forward to really make himself as good a player as he can possibly be. ... I think AJ is really emerging as a leader of our football team."
Breakout Players: Adrian Hubbard, Trey DePriest and Xzavier Dickson Nico Johnson and C.J. Mosley are the veteran leaders in the linebacking corps, but Hubbard, DePriest and Dickson will be three potential breakout candidates. DePriest played in all 13 contests last season and recorded 14 stops. Hubbard and Dickson played sparingly last year, but were ranked among the top 100 players in their recruiting class. DePriest will anchor one of the inside spots, while Hubbard and Dickson will play off the edge and help to replace the pass rush void vacated by Courtney Upshaw.
The Alabama men's golf team qualified for the match play portion of the NCAA Championships on Thursday with a 3-over-par round of 285 for a 7-over-par total of 859 to finish on top of the stroke-play portion of the 2012 NCAA Championships at the Riviera Country Club. "Once again (the team) did what they have done all year long, when someone pulled up beside them or got in front of them, they played some serious golf," Alabama head coach Jay Seawell said. "I'm really proud to be the No. 1 seed - it is a big deal." The Crimson Tide beat UCLA by two strokes after the Bruins shot 1-over 285 on Thursday for a 9-over total of 861. Alabama will face the eighth seed in match play beginning at 12 p.m. on Friday. Florida State and Kent State will have a playoff for that spot beginning at 10 a.m. Friday after finishing tied at 23-over 875. "As the spring has gone on we have gotten leads and extended them," Hunter Hamrick said after the round. "That is what we have tried to learn all spring. I guess if you practice it enough it comes through when you need it."
Rather than seek out only marquee opponents, Alabama looked for competitive teams with potentially high RPIs. The coaching staff also takes into account the roster of every team they might face. "My thing is you have to do your research on what kind of team they are," Pujol said. "Wichita State -- that's a top-25 team in the country. When you go to get your guarantee games, you have to look at teams that should be the best teams in their league. "You have to do your research on what type of team is coming back, and Coach [Grant] does that. He'll say, 'Let's look at the roster. Let's look at what they did last year. Let's look at what they have coming back.' "
The Southeastern Conference's annual meetings are usually dominated by football, understandably enough. Football drives the SEC. But somehow, the league's coaches and athletic directors can't agree on what should be the simplest football question of all: who plays who. The basketball coaches seemed to do a little better at the annual meetings in Destin, although that hasn't all been entirely sorted out either. The SEC basketball tournament, according to several coaches, will now be a five-day, 14-team marathon. The top four teams will get a double-bye until Friday, which suggests that the bottom four teams will play on Wednesday and have to win five games in five days to get an automatic NCAA bid. Don't expect that to happen. Ever. The regular-season basketball format will include one permanent opponent - Alabama's, naturally, will be Auburn - and a rotating smorgasbord of other opponents, still with some of the old divisional flavor. "We were presented with options involving one, two or three permanent opponents," Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy said. "But we were comfortable with one, and with all getting along."
"With us coming in the league, it's just like day one we have to go in and analyze every single school we play against in the SEC, and be very thorough in our preparation," Pinkel said. "That's what we're doing. It's been ongoing for months, and we'll finish this summer. I never thought I'd be doing something like that. "In the transition there's so many things (to prepare for) that we kind of came up with a master plan in December and January about how this transition has to take place. We study scheme, we study personnel, we study coordinators, we study all of those things. There's really no choice. We better be ready. I don't ever look at it as a disadvantage. If we're not ready from the standpoint of preparation, then that's my fault."