The University of Alabama softball team will reach the midpoint of its conference season at the end of this weekend, with the ninth-ranked Crimson Tide playing its fourth SEC series at Missouri.
It’s a key series because Alabama’s league schedule is more back-loaded, with the final four opponents – LSU, Tennessee, Ole Miss and Auburn – all ranked.
UA is tied with Texas A&M for second in the league after sweeping Arkansas and winning two out of three against Mississippi State and South Carolina. SEC leader Florida is 7-1 in conference play, with Alabama and the Aggies both at 7-2.
“I think it’s anybody’s game, really,” UA coach Patrick Murphy said. “We just need to take care of our business and not worry about anybody else.”
Missouri is off to a 1-4 start in SEC play. The Tigers lost two games at Florida (with the third rained out) and took one of three at A&M. This weekend will be the first home conference series on newly-built Mizzou Field.
“They have a new facility,” Murphy said. “I think that really reenergizes a team, their fans, the whole thing. When we got (Rhoads Stadium), this was the key; so I’m sure they’re thinking the same thing. Their older facility, they needed a new one.”
While Missouri has won 18 of 31 games and only one conference contest, Murphy cautions that the Tigers’ record needs a closer look. Mizzou dropped two to top-ranked Oregon, two to second-ranked Florida, took one of three from fifth-ranked A&M, beat No. 8 Washington and split two games with 11th-ranked James Madison.
“They’ve played the toughest schedule in the league by far,” Alabama’s coach said. “They might not have the wins, but they’ve played the competition.
“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.”
Murphy is hopeful that outfielder Merris Schroeder, the team’s top hitter with a .425 average, will be back in the lineup. She missed last weekend’s series against South Carolina and Tuesday night’s game against Kent State recovering from a concussion.
“She ran (Tuesday) and she hit (in practice),” Murphy said. “She’s coming.”
No. 9 Alabama at Missouri
Where: Mizzou Field in Columbia, Mo.
Schedule: Friday at 6:30 p.m., Saturday at 5 p.m., Sunday at noon
Records: Alabama 31-4, 7-2 SEC; Missouri 18-13, 1-4 SEC
TV: SEC Network (Saturday only)
Radio: 93.3 FM