The Alabama softball team continued its winning streak against Mississippi State Thursday in the Southeastern Conference tournament. The Tide beat the Bulldogs 5-2 and advanced to the next day, where it will face the Georgia Bulldogs in the semi-finals. Sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina pitched all seven innings in Thursday’s game to improve to 32-2 on the year. She gave up two runs on five hits and struck out eight batters. “We’re starting to peak at the right time,” left fielder Kayla Braud said. “We have been working really hard and are starting to gel.”
"I thought it was an entertaining game," Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. "Great crowd, great atmosphere, great energy from them. I thought we had a lot of opportunities early that we didn't take advantage of. It was a good game overall. Jackie (Traina) pitched pretty well. (Kayla) Braud obviously made a great play in the first inning that gave us the momentum and I thought we used that throughout the whole game."
The big innings, though, ended in bittersweet fashion, as Alabama left the bases loaded in each one. For the game, Alabama stranded 11 runners. It provided a simple lesson before today's showdown with Georgia, a team that jumped on Alabama for a series-opening, 7-4 victory last month before the Crimson Tide recovered to win the next two games. "Just put people away," Murphy said. "You put it in play, good things are going to happen. We didn't do it enough." The Bulldogs picked up their runs in the sixth, when Sam Lenahan's RBI double scored Heidi Shape, who led off the inning with a triple. Lenahan scored two batters later after a Traina error. There was never any movement in Alabama's bullpen while Traina, who threw 355 pitches in last weekend's series against Florida, worked her way through and out of the jam. Trouble didn't find her the rest of the game. "I thought she was going to get out of it," Murphy said. "I don't think anybody was thinking we were going to lose it."
"That target is always on our back," Saban said. "So two days after (winning the BCS title), I called next year’s team together and said, ’You guys are not the national champions. You need to make a commitment to what this team needs to do. A lot of you participated last year and did a great job, but that’s over. We need to look forward and not look in the rear-view mirror at what we did, but what we need to be doing for next year’s team.’"
"Too many people are about their own self-preservation rather than doing what's best for college football. The whole reason we are talking about doing this is for the fans, and the fans want the four best teams. To come up with a plan where, instead of having Numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 playing but you have Number 1, 3, 6 and 12 or whatever, it doesn't make any sense. They don't do it in basketball, so for once, let's do what's best for college football." Saban also stated what seems fairly obvious to most Southeastern Conference fans. "A lot of it (in terms of alternate playoff plans) is targeted at our league," Saban said. "Last year at one point, we had LSU, Arkansas and us ranked 1-2-3 in the BCS. Two years in a row, we played Florida in the championship game and we were ranked 1-2. Some people don't like that."
"Sometimes it's a problem that the conference commissioners, all of whom have somewhat of an agenda to protect their conference and their league," Saban said. "Somebody above that needs to say, this is how we're doing it." Saban also addressed the recent proposal endorsed by South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and LSU's Les Miles to determine division champions in the SEC using only divisional games rather than all conference games. "I think you minimize the importance of all the SEC games if you do that. I know that the issue and the problem is parity in schedules."
Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges admits he spent most of last week studying Alabama game film in preparation for the Wolverines' season opener against Alabama on Sept. 1 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Borges, a guest Wednesday morning on 97.3 The Zone, a radio station in Birmingham, Ala., told "Smashmouth" hosts Scott Griffin and Kevin Scarbinsky that first-game prep work has started in earnest. "I was in last week and I spent five days studying Alabama tape and watching every game they played," Borges said. "I promise you that's foremost in our minds. We're a little diverted because we've got a lot of things to think about still, but that being the first game and as big a game as it is, we're going to spend a significant amount of time on that game. "It's already begun, and actually began before last week."
A day before the start of rookie minicamp, the Ravens have finalized agreements with their entire 2012 draft class. They made sure of that today, when not long after agreeing to terms with their top pick - Alabama linebacker Courtney Upshaw - the Ravens struck a deal with sixth-rounder Tommy Streeter, a wide receiver out of Miami. Upshaw agreed to a four-year deal worth approximately $5.3 million, which reportedly includes $3.6 million guaranteed. Both he and Streeter reported to the team's facility in Owings Mills today to take physicals and sign their contracts.