Alabama Softball: "FINISH IT" Part II

RollTide. - Alabama Athletic Communications

Back in 2012, the Alabama softball team won the Softball World Series over Oklahoma spurred on by the slogan "FINISH IT". This mantra was birthed from disappointing post-season losses from previous seasons. Unfortunately in 2013, they regressed back, losing to Tennessee in a Super Regional. Can you relate Bama football fans?

This season, the Tide hopes to regain that hunger and reach that ultimate goal once again.

The team started out the season routing some overmatched teams like Kennesaw State and North Florida. They didn’t get a real taste of competition until they ran into a buzzsaw in Tucson. The Arizona Wildcats tossed back-to-back shutouts with the second game being an 8-0 5-inning mercy rule game. It is the first time Bama has been on the losing end of a five-inning loss since the 2011 Women's College World Series against Florida.

The hangover lasted another week. After winning the next four over VaTech and UCF, Bama was upset at home 5-3 versus McNeese State. It was time to regroup.

After that loss, Bama won 14 of the next 15 with the one loss being part of a split with #9 FSU. This stretch included a pair of 3-game sweeps of South Carolina and Ole Miss.

This past weekend, the Tide traveled to Gainesville to face the number one team in the Florida Gators. Alabama came away with two wins out of three games and emerged with a look of a team readying for the stretch run. The Crimson Tide record stands at 28-5 and lead the SEC with an 8-1 conference record. They have 22 games to go before the SEC Softball Tournament.

PITCHING

As usual, they are led by All-American Jaclyn "A-Train" Traina (BTW: she prefers to be called "Jaclyn" over "Jackie"). This past weekend she threw two complete-game victories against top-ranked Florida giving up only one earned run. For her efforts, she was named SEC Pitcher of the Week, USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Week, and NFCA Co-National Player of the Week.

On the season, Traina is 11-2 with a 1.84 ERA. She is averaging 1.13 strikeouts per inning striking out 99 batters on the season.

Having an ace like Traina is a must for any team that wants to ride her arm to the World Series. However, having a reliable number two pitcher is a luxury. Junior Leslie "Judge and" Jury has blossomed into a strong pitcher with a 11-3 record, 11 complete games, and recording 7 shutouts.

HITTING

All-America Haylie "The Comet" McCleney is destroying the competition as the leadoff hitter hitting a robust .522 (second highest in the nation) and slugging .844. In only 31 games, she has 42 runs, 47 hits, 7 home runs and 29 RBI. She also leads the team in stolen bases getting caught only once in 21 attempts. If you go to a game, there is a good probability that you will see Haylie get on base and come around to score. If that isn't enough, the center fielder has cleanly fielded every ball that has come her way.

Kaila "Big Game" Hunt has been pulling in the awards - both athletic and academic - since her freshman year. The All-American/Academic All-American senior leads the team with 8 dingers and second to Haylie in RBI with 25.

Molly "Good Golly" Fichtner is hitting .375 and 23 RBI. Jadyn "Dragon" Spencer is at .329, 4 HR, 25 RBI.

The biggest surprise might be the emergence of sophomore first basemen Leona "Don't Call Me Helmsley" Lafaele. After struggling at the plate in her freshman year (.208, 5 HR, 21 RBI), her batting average has jumped to .329 with 5 four-baggers including a 3-run jack in Sunday’s 7-0 rout of the Gators.

UP NEXT

The Tide return to the inner circle in Tuscaloosa for an 8-game homestand starting on Friday with LSU (19-12, 2-4) for a weekend series. There will be giveaways at the games:

Friday, March 28, 2014 vs. LSU, Tuscaloosa, 6:30 p.m. CT - Free softball t-shirts to the first 100 UA students.
Saturday, March 29, 2014 vs. LSU, Tuscaloosa, 2:00 p.m. CT - "Stripe Out" Free t-shirts courtesy of The Pants Store.
Sunday, March 30, 2014 vs. LSU, Tuscaloosa, 1:00 p.m. CT - Kids Day - first 100 kids 12 & under free hot dog, drink & eyeblack; Post-game autographs & run the bases.

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