The University of Alabama got sterling pitching and hitting performances on its opening weekend of play, and the Southeastern Conference office took notice.
Junior Alexis Osorio was honored as SEC Pitcher of the Week and freshman catcher Bailey Hemphill was named SEC Freshman of the Week after the seventh-ranked Crimson Tide swept five games at the Kickin’ Chicken Classic in Conway, S.C.
Osorio pitched a perfect 11 2/3 innings, striking out 25 batters without allowing a baserunner. Her 19-strikeout perfect game against Coastal Carolina on Friday was the fourth perfect game in school history. She got a win in relief on Saturday against Towson with 4 2/3 flawless innings, including six more strikeouts.
Hemphill batted .500 (7 for 14) over five starts and drove in nine runs. She hit three home runs and finished the weekend with a 1.214 slugging percentage. Her first home run came on her first career at-bat, a three-run shot against Towson last Friday, and she hit another three-run homer on Saturday vs. Coastal Carolina. She had at least one hit in all five games and scored at least one run in four of the five games.
Alabama (5-0) will host South Alabama (5-0) on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Rhoads Stadium in its home opener.
Shooting gone afoul
In the wake of Alabama’s 67-58 loss to Kentucky last weekend, the fan focus is firmly back on one aspect of the game: foul shooting.
The Crimson Tide made just 9 of 26 free throw attempts in the game, and while it isn’t possible to simply recreate a result in which Alabama makes all — or even more — of its foul shots, it is worth revisiting just where UA stands when it shoots from the free throw line.
1) After a week at just barely above 50 percent (UA was 22 of 33 in its win at South Carolina, finishing at 31 of 59 — 52.5 percent — for the week), the Crimson Tide slipped just below Texas A&M and is now 14th (last) in the SEC.
2) No, Alabama is not the “worst” foul shooting team in the NCAA, not even among the major basketball conferences. The Crimson Tide is 328th (63.8 percent) making the 351 Division I teams, ahead of both Seton Hall (345th) and Rutgers (347th). There is no definitive research as to why foul shooting is so difficult in New Jersey.
Notre Dame leads the nation at a remarkable 81.2 percent. If Alabama was the best free-throw shooting team in the country, it would have scored approximately 99 more points (4.125 per game) than its current total.
3) It’s not necessarily “coaching.” Both Michigan State (Tom Izzo) and Kansas (Bill Self) are currently under 65 percent from the line this season.
4) Alabama does practice free throws, and has done so with additional frequency in recent weeks.
5) There is no physical inability to shoot free throws. Alabama made 86 percent in a recent win over Mississippi State and 80 percent in a loss at Arkansas. UA just has not posted those numbers consistently.
6) Alabama coach Avery Johnson is aware that UA needs to have better focus at the line.
“Here’s what Wimp (Sanderson, the former Alabama coach) told me,” Johnson said after the Kentucky game. “Sometimes, if you keep talking about it, you only make it worse.”
– Cecil Hurt
Outside the top five
For the third week in a row, the University of Alabama gymnastics team remains just outside the top-five bubble, holding an average score of 196.725 to stay No. 6.
Alabama recently lost to No. 9 Kentucky, which jumped a spot after last Friday’s meet, 197.475 to 197.05.
“We weren’t on our best that night, and it got us in the end,” junior Nickie Guerrero said Monday. “At the same time, we know what we’re capable of.”
It was also still the Crimson Tide’s fourth 197-plus score this season — split between home and away meets.
Up next, Alabama hosts an Auburn team it has already defeated. The annual Elevate the Stage meet came down to the final rotation, though.
Junior Kiana Winston is the only UA gymnast individually ranked in the top 10 on more than one event. She is fourth on the floor exercise, averaging 9.936, and tied for fifth on the balance beam, averaging a 9.892.
As an all-around threat, Winston is eighth with a 39.475 average. Her season-high is a 39.7.
The only other Alabama gymnast up there in the rankings is Guerrero, making fourth on the beam with a 9.896 average.
There are only four gymnasts on the 19-person roster who haven’t competed yet — freshman Caitlin Cole, junior Jennie Loeb and sophomores Peyton Ernst and Angelina Giancroce.
Unlike last week, the Crimson Tide is ranked in the top 10 on every event. It is fifth on the beam with a 49.289 average, sixth on the vault with a 49.179 average, seventh on the floor with a 49.193 average and 10th on the uneven bars with a 49.064 average.
– Terrin Waack
Wade leads in rebounds per game
The Alabama women’s basketball team dropped two more conference matchups to the Texas A&M Aggies and Florida Gators this week. Alabama has been struggling since winning two of the first three SEC games this season, and a big part has been the Crimson Tide’s inconsistent rebounding.
Alabama was out-rebounded by both the Aggies and the Gators despite entering Feb. 12 game against the gators ranked No. 4 in the conference in rebounding margin. Alabama’s rebounding has been a collective effort since the season began, and its current leading in rebounds per game actually comes from the guard position in Shaquera Wade at 6.1 per contest.
Wade has been a big part of the Crimson Tide’s production in conference play, averaging 4.2 more points per game than she did a season ago. Her increase in steals from a year ago has also helped her offensive game, and with 46 steals so far on the season she has generated a lot of easy baskets on the opponents end. Against the Gators, Wade spent time on the bench after an ankle injury, but returned to the game, scoring six points.
Two Alabama juniors are within 100 points from joining Alabama’s prestigious 1000-point club. Hannah Cook is only 67 points away and Ashley Williams is even closer needing only 49. Cook and Williams would become No. 25 and 26 on the list of players with 1000 points.
Alabama will take on some of the SEC’s top teams, Tennessee and Auburn next week.
— Drew Hill