After the conclusion of its three-game series at Missouri on Sunday, the No. 9 Alabama Crimson Tide softball team will be at the midway point of the SEC season. The Crimson Tide is still playing non-conference games, including two games at home against No. 8 Washington in a rematch of last year’s Super Regional, but the majority of its remaining slate is conference play. Currently at 7-2 in the SEC, Alabama finds itself half a game behind Florida for first place in the conference, but with more than half of the conference schedule left a lot can change.
“I think it’s anybody’s game really,” coach Patrick Murphy said. “Now we just need to take care of our business and not worry about anybody else. Do what we do and worry about us.”
The Crimson Tide travels to take on the Tigers starting on Friday. Missouri is 1-7 in SEC games, but has wins against Washington, No. 7 Texas A&M, and then-No. 14 James Madison, as well as two games of experience against No. 1 Oregon and No. 2 Florida.
“They’ve played the toughest schedule in the league by far and they might not have the wins but they have played the competition,” Murphy said. “So they’re not going to be a pushover by any means and they’re not going to be intimidated especially playing at their new place.”
Mizzou Softball Stadium is a brand-new stadium that opened this season, and Murphy said that can be a powerful advantage.
“[They] can beat anybody, they’ve got a new facility that really energizes the team [and] their fans,” Murphy said. “You know when we got this [Rhoads Stadium], this was the key, so I’m sure they’re thinking the same thing cause their older facility, they needed a new one.”
The Crimson Tide has only played 11 road games as opposed to 24 home games, but sophomore outfielder Mari Cranek said playing on the road isn’t too different.
“It’s not like playing at home, but it’s still good and we just are always ready to go and play and it doesn’t matter where we are,” Cranek said.
Cranek has been getting more playing time recently due to the absence of the regular starter in left field, sophomore Merris Schroder. Schroder suffered a concussion in practice prior to this past weekend’s series against South Carolina, but Murphy said she has been hitting and running in practice. She will travel with the team, and will play if she passes concussion protocol.
Schroder’s offensive presence might be needed by the Crimson Tide, as Missouri has a potent offense, led by freshman shortstop Braxton Burnside. Burnside was named SEC Freshman of the Week for the week of Mar. 13-19. Her best game that stretch was against North Dakota State on Mar. 18, when she hit two grand slams and had 10 RBI, tying the SEC single-game RBI record and setting a program record. Murphy said that Burnside and her teammates are a dangerous offense, but that his team is up to the task.
“All of our pitchers are going to have to do a really good job,” Murphy said. “I know they have a really good freshman that’s Freshman of the Week, so obviously they replaced a couple of their kids that they lost last year.”
The first pitch Friday night will be at 6:30 p.m., with a game on Saturday at 5 p.m. and a Sunday game at noon to wrap up the series.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports