Alabama softball and Florida have a lot in common as they face off in the 2021 SEC Championship
No. 3-ranked Alabama softball (44-7, 18-6 SEC) takes on the No. 4-ranked Florida Gators (42-8, 19-5 SEC) in the 2021 SEC championship Saturday nightat Rhodes Stadium.
The two storied programs have played 81 times, with the Crimson Tide holding a one-game advantage.
Alabama coach Patrick Murphy and Florida coach Tim Walton have won a combined 22 SEC championships: Murphy has six regular-season and four SEC Tournament titles; Walton has seven regular-season and five tournament championships.
"The league is the most balanced it's ever been this year," Murphy said. "Everyone is good. You can't take a day off or you're going to get your butt kicked."
The Gators won national championships in 2014 and 2015, and the Crimson Tide became the first SEC team to win a national championship in 2012.
Here are five things to know about the rivalry:
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SEC belongs to the Crimson Tide or Gators
Since 2009, the regular-season champion in the SEC has come out of Tuscaloosa or Gainesville, Florida.
"It was 2019 and we were down there for a series and I was looking at the SEC championship wall they have and noticed we have every year they don't," Murphy said. "Tim called me in 2019 and said we better win the league because it's either the Gators or the Crimson Tide."
Longtime coaches, good friends
Murphy has been at the helm for 23 years, while Walton has coached the Gators for 15. The two have faced off against each other 53 times, with Florida holding a 30-21 advantage.
"Tim does an unbelievable job down there," Murphy said. "He recruits great kids and good students, and I try to do the same. This is a healthy rivalry, not a dirty one."
Familiar postseason foes
Since 1999, the two-storied programs have faced off six times in the Women's College World Series. Alabama holds a 1-5 record against the Gators in Oklahoma City. The most recent showdown resulted in a 15-3 run-rule victory for the Crimson Tide in 2019.
The programs have faced off six times in the SEC Tournament since '99 also, with the Gators holding a 5-1 overall advantage.
This matchup also marks the fifth between the two in that timespan in the championship, with Florida's 2019 title giving it a 3-1 edge.
Eerily similar pitching staffs
The Crimson Tide rotation has a 1.81 ERA. The Gator's rotation holds a 1.82 ERA.
The staffs rank first and second in the SEC for ERA and runs allowed and also have the most wins, Alabama with 44 and the Gators with 42.
UF's Elizabeth Hightower (16-4, 1.65 ERA) and Alabama's Montana Fouts (21-3, 1.62) are both ranked in the top 10 in nearly every statistic in conference play.
Powerful offenses, speed everywhere
The Alabama offense ranks top 5 in batting average (.316), on-base percentage (.406), runs scored (307), hits (416), RBIs (265), walks (183) and stolen bases (83) in conference play. Florida features four hitting above .300 or better and two more with double-digit home runs.
"Hitting is contagious whether that be when good things or bad things are happening," Murphy said. "Right now, I am comfortable with the lineup we've had and its been working out."