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Alabama Softball Series Preview: No. 2 Florida Gators

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The No. 4 Crimson Tide face their conference opponent in a three game series that starts Saturday.

Florida ace Lauren Haegar could be a challenge for the Tide in this weekend's pivotal SEC series.
Florida ace Lauren Haegar could be a challenge for the Tide in this weekend's pivotal SEC series.
Daniell Bloch (gatorcountry.com)

Alabama softball (21-5, 5-1 SEC) is locked in and ready to take on the No. 2 Florida Gators (28-2, 1-2 SEC) after a series win over the Georgia Bulldogs and midweek win over the Georgia State Panthers. The Tide have once again solidified themselves as one of the nation's elite teams since SEC play started. This series could be the toughest test the Crimson Tide face this year. The Gators are the second-ranked team in the country, the defending national champions, and sport the SEC's most balanced roster. Florida has superb pitching to go along with their prolific offense.

If there is any team that is equipped to handle the Gators, it is the Crimson Tide. Alabama has a pitching staff that can shut down any offense. Alexis Osorio, Sydney Littlejohn, and Leslie Jury can go toe-to-toe with the nation's best hitters. Georgia came in to last weekend's series with the SEC's best offense, and Alabama's pitching staff held them in check.

Alabama does not have to rely solely on pitching though, as the Tide have a contact-based offense that will put runs on the scoreboard. Alabama relies on their speed, contact, and aggressive baserunning to create offensive opportunities. Those attributes translate well to any matchup.

Florida's pitching staff has a team ERA of 1.39. Senior Lauren Haegar sits at 12-0 with a 1.28 ERA. Much like Alabama, the Gators have a Freshman Phenom on the mound. Aleshia Ocasio has been fantastic in her first year in Gainsesville with a 9-2 record and a 1.34 ERA.

The Gators complement their aces with an offense that can put any pitch out of the park. Kelsey Stewart leads the team in average at .398 and hits with 39. Haegar plays both ways and has hit nine home runs. Taylore Fuller has also hit nine home runs. The combo of Haegar and Fuller have a combined 68 RBI this season.

Alabama will counter the Gators with the aforementioned trio of Littlejohn, Jury, and Osorio. The three pitchers have carried the Crimson Tide multiple times this season. Osorio sits at 9-2 on the season with a 2.13 ERA and 81 strikeouts. Littlejohn has thrown two perfect games this year and has a 1.17 ERA. Jury is a versatile weapon who has been effective in relief and starting. Jury has a 2.53 ERA, a 4-2 record and has cut down on her walks this season.

Offensively, the Crimson Tide have a number of weapons. Junior All-American Haylie McCleney has led the Tide for most of the season, but a recent hot streak from freshman second baseman Demi Turner has put Turner in the lead in many offensive categories. Turner has a .468 batting average, 37 hits and 20 RBI to lead the team in each of those categories. She was named the SEC's Freshman of the Week for her contributions in the series win over Georgia.

The series starts Saturday at 1 p.m. CT and is available to watch on ESPNU. Game two starts Sunday at 4:30 p.m. CT and will be televised again on ESPNU. The finale is Monday at 6 p.m. CT and will be televised on SEC Network. Tickets are available to purchase here and at the gate prior to the game.