SOFTBALL SUPER REGIONAL
Alabama vs. Texas
Schedule: Thursday 8 p.m.; Friday 8 p.m.; Saturday 1 p.m. (if necessary)
Where: Rhoads Stadium
Records: Alabama 55-7, Texas 45-15
TV: ESPN
Radio: 93.3 FM


THE CALL

Hitting
Advantage: Alabama
Alabama matches up a little better when it comes to the most important stat – scoring runs. The Crimson Tide can do that in bunches with Bailey Hemphill leading the way. Texas doesn’t rely on a lot of power with just 38 home runs to Alabama’s 79, but Longhorn players like Kaitlyn Washington are capable of manufacturing runs.

Fielding
Advantage: Alabama
Slight edge to the Tide here. Alabama’s Elissa Brown and Sarah Cornell earned spots on the All-SEC Defensive team and with good reason. Brown has 92 putouts and just one error while Cornell has zero. Texas has a .964 fielding percentage with 60 errors to Alabama’s .972 average with 48 errors.

Pitching
Advantage: Even
Montana Fouts has stepped into the role of ace for Alabama as a freshman with a 17-4 record and a 1.20 ERA. Sarah Cornell adds depth with a 21-1 mark and a 2.39 ERA. Walks (147) have been an issue for the Tide. Texas counters with a one-two punch in Shealyn O’Leary (13-2, .54 ERA, 61 K, 12 BB) and Miranda Elish (18-9, 1.68 ERA, 224 K, 48 BB), who have 15 combined shutouts.

Coaching
Advantage: Alabama
It’s hard to argue with these numbers for Alabama’s Patrick Murphy: 15 super regional appearances, 11 Women’s College World Series appearances, two WCWS championship appearances and one national title. Mike White has the Longhorns in a super regional in his first year after leaving Oregon, where he coached five WCWS teams.

Intangibles
Advantage: Alabama
Rhoads Stadium is a hostile an environment for any road team, but the odds dip lower in the playoffs. Alabama boasts a 16-4 record in super regionals played in Tuscaloosa and only once in nine home series has it lost (Hawaii in 2010). It will be extremely hard for Texas to win two games in that environment.

Prediction
Alabama wins series 2-1
Texas went toe-to-toe with Oklahoma this season and came close to knocking off the nation’s No. 1 team. So the Longhorns are not afraid to mix it up with elite programs. The bats have been steady for the Tide, but a a strong effort, including limiting walks, is key for the Alabama pitching staff. Do that and it’s off to Oklahoma City.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

ALABAMA
Elissa Brown
Class: Junior
Position: Outfielder
Ht: 5-3, Bat/Throw: L/R
Key stat: 46-for-51 in stolen bases, which is sixth on UA’s career list
Buzz: The second-team All-SEC center fielder is coming off a big regional tournament performance, going 6-for-9 with four stolen bases and six runs scored from the leadoff spot. Second on the team in batting average (.337), Brown may be more of a threat in the outfield where she is able to track down fly balls with ease.

Kaylee Tow
Class: Sophomore
Position: first base/DP
Ht: 6-0 Bat/Throw: L/R
Key stat: Leads team with 56 runs, 63 walks and 12 doubles; second on the team with 58 RBIs
Buzz: Tow’s patience at the plate and getting on base has rewarded the Crimson Tide. She sets the table for Bailey Hemphill behind her and the result has been lots of runs and game-breaking moments – none bigger than her walk to set up Hemphill’s grand slam in last week’s regional.

Sarah Cornell
Class: Junior
Position: Pitcher
Ht: 5-9 Bat/Throw: R/R
Key stat: SEC Pitcher of the Year, first-team All-SEC
Buzz: The Hofstra transfer has been a key pickup for the Crimson Tide. With a 21-1 record she’s won six of her last eight decisions. She had a tough outing against Arizona State in the regional but will be needed to help shut down Texas in the Super Regional.

TEXAS

Janae Jefferson
Class: Sophomore
Position: Outfield
Ht: 5-4 Bat/Throw:L/R
Key stat: Leads team in average (.398) and hits (74)
Buzz: Jefferson bats leadoff or second, but she’s dangerous at the plate no matter where she is in the lineup. When she gets on base the chances are good she will score (she leads the team with 37 runs). The Longhorns don’t have many stolen bases, but Jefferson has 10 this season.

Mary Iakopo
Class: Sophomore
Position: Catcher
Ht: 5-10 Bat/Throw: R/R
Key stat: Leads Longhorns with 10 home runs
Buzz: A patient hitter, Iakopo gives the Longhorns plenty of scoring opportunities. She leads the team in RBIs (38) and also leads in walks (27). She’s either driving in runs or getting on base, which has led to lots of the Longhorns’ success.

Miranda Elish
Class: Junior
Position: Pitcher
Ht: 5-8 Bat/Throw: L/R
Key stat: Her 224 strikeouts lead the Big 12
Buzz: The Oregon transfer has power on both sides of the ball for Texas. She boasts a 1.68 ERA in the circle and a .315 average at the plate with six home runs. She leads the Big 12 with 11 shutouts and 19 complete games.

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