Lose and go home. That’s the way it goes at a single-elimination tournament.
Win at the SEC Tournament, and the University of Alabama softball team may get to play at home again. That may be how it works for the Crimson Tide at the SEC Tournament.
Fifth-seeded Alabama will play 12th-seeded Arkansas on Wednesday in Knoxville, Tennessee, with a chance to enhance its resume. If UA wins this game, it bolsters its chances of hosting an NCAA regional; win and beat Texas A&M on Thursday, and Alabama will have a strong case that it should host a regional, as it has done every year since 2005.
To keep that streak alive, Alabama will need to carry the momentum from its end-of-the-regular-season victory over Auburn and do some damage in the SEC Tournament. A one-and-done would probably not bode well for UA’s fortunes when the 64-team field for the national championship tournament is revealed on Sunday.
“We don’t want that,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said.
Alabama swept Arkansas over three games to open SEC play two months ago, winning 9-0 in five innings by the mercy rule, 4-3 in extra innings and 5-0 in six innings (in a rain-shortened game). Murphy isn’t putting a lot of stock in those results.
“It seems like we played them a year ago,” Murphy said. “I know their lineup is totally different. It looks like a totally different team. Ours is, too.
“It’s really hard to beat somebody four times in a season as well.”
Arkansas is a program on the rise. The Razorbacks have missed the postseason the last three years.
“They’re hitting the ball a lot better,” Murphy said. “They’re playing much better defense than they ever did. They’ve got a deeper pitching staff.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a great game, because they’re going to be excited getting back there.”
Alabama has a lot to play for, and also has its back against the wall. Players know they the stakes, and want to play at home again.
To do that, they have to win.
“Usually it’s like, ‘We’re going to play regionals here, we’ll be back in two weeks,’” Murphy said. “It’s a different feeling for sure.”
Alabama vs. Arkansas
Where: Sherri Parker Lee Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee
When: Wednesday at 11 a.m. CT
Records: Alabama 40-15, Arkansas 31-21
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 93.3 FM