No. 5 Alabama vs. Belmont
When: 6 p.m., Tuesday
Where: Heritage Park, Cullman
Records: Alabama 45-4, Belmont 26-18
Radio: 93.3 FM


Coming off a big sweep against Florida in Gainesville, the Alabama softball team finds itself atop the SEC standings, needing just four more conference wins to clinch the regular-season title.

But first, another road trip. For Claire Jenkins, though, it’s a homecoming.

No. 5 Alabama will head up the road to Cullman, Jenkins’ hometown, to play Belmont in a neutral-site game.

“It’s one of the things I tell them when we are recruiting, that if the schedule allows it, we try to go where they are from at least once in their career,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. “This is Claire’s trip. We are going to go halfway and Belmont is going to come halfway.

Jenkins is hitting .287 and is second on the team in home runs with 12.

“The city has welcomed us with open arms,” Murphy said. “It’s the same park that Claire basically grew up on when she was in little league. All her friends and family, her former coaches and folks she knows in Cullman can come and watch her play.”

Alabama gets back to SEC play this weekend with a three-game series against Kentucky at Rhoads Stadium.

Alabama has won eight straight and with the return of freshman pitcher Montana Fouts to the lineup last week the pitching staff is back to full strength. Fouts was out for two weeks with an injury.

“The other pitchers had to step up and maybe it was a blessing in disguise to have Sarah (Cornell), Krystal (Goodman), Courtney (Gettins) and Madison (Preston) have to carry the load. Krystal was awesome against Florida and she has come a long way. Sarah is just a big-time competitor and she loves to have the ball. We are really lucky that we got both of them because they are both transfers.”

Alabama ranks No. 1 in the SEC in home runs (70) and stolen bases (111), along with runs (332). Nationally, the Crimson Tide is fifth in stolen bases, sixth in home runs and eighth in runs scored.

Bailey Hemphill carries the offense into Tuesday’s game with Belmont and this weekend against Kentucky. She is hitting .358 with 20 home runs, 64 RBIs and 49 hits, all a team-high. She belted her 20th homer over the weekend against Florida.

“The bomb she hit at Florida was on the bullpen roof,” Murphy said. “It wasn’t even close. I thought the left fielder had a shot at it, but when I watched the replay, it was on the roof of the building. That was a big-time hit.”