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Softball Opens NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional Thursday against Chattanooga

(UA) TUSCALOOSA — Alabama enters the 2008 NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional as the No. 1 seed in the tournament and the No. 3 national seed after winning the SEC Western Division Championship with a 25-3 SEC record and a 51-6 overall mark.

UA will be looking for its sixth NCAA Regional Championship and its fourth straight after capturing regional crowns in 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007. It is the sixth time in school history the Tide has been selected as a regional host with Alabama winning four of the previous five regionals at home.

Top-seed Alabama is joined by No. 2-seed Florida State, No. 3-seed Jacksonville State and No. 4-seed Chattanooga. The Crimson Tide opens the regional against Chattanooga at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. The Mocs are 41-20 on the year and qualified for the NCAA Tournament by advancing through the loser’s bracket of the Southern Conference Tournament to earn the league’s automatic berth.

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Florida State is an at-large bid out of the Atlantic Coast Conference where they posted a 37-26 overall record. Jacksonville State is the third seed after winning the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament crown with a 10-1 win over Tennessee Tech in the tournament championship game.

Alabama is making its 10th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament and boast a 23-9 record in regional action. The Crimson Tide own a 4-2 lead in the all-time series against Chattanooga and have an 8-0 edge in the Jacksonville State series, including a 6-2 win earlier this season. Alabama and Florida State have squared off four times on the softball diamond with each team capturing two wins. The Tide won last year’s meeting in the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional by a score of 6-3.

2008 NCAA Tuscaloosa Regionalbr>
#1 Alabama • #2 Florida State • #3 Jacksonville State • #4 Chattanooga

Thursday-Saturday, May 15-17, 2008 • Games 1-5 Tide TV (RollTide.com) – Games 6-7 ESPN2/ESPN360.com

Alabama Softball Complex (1,595) • Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Radio: WVUA 90.7 FM • Internet: www.RollTide.com

Alabama in the NCAA Tournament
Alabama earned its 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament bid in 2008 with a 51-6 overall record and a SEC Western Division Championship. In just its 12th year of existence, the Crimson Tide program garnered its 10th appearance in NCAA Regional play. The Tide have a 23-9 record in NCAA Regional action (not including super regionals and the College World Series) and have won five NCAA Regional titles (2000, ‘03, ‘05, ‘06 & ‘07). UA is hosting its sixth NCAA Regional after winning four of the previous five regionals they have hosted. The Tide is 16-3 in regional games played at the Alabama Softball Complex.

Crimson Tide Garner No. 3 National Seed
Alabama was awarded the No. 3 national seed for the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The Crimson Tide was second in the most recent RPI released by the NCAA on May 4. The Crimson Tide is 11-5 against top-25 competition, including non-conference games away from home against Northwestern, DePaul and Washington. 

Tide against the 2008 NCAA Tournament Field
The Crimson Tide played an impressive 14 teams in 2008 that qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Alabama played 31 games against those NCAA Tournament teams and posted a 25-6 (.806) record. The 31 games against NCAA teams represented 54.4 percent of Alabama’s 2008 schedule. The Crimson Tide also faced five of the 16 No. 1 seeds in this weekend’s NCAA Regionals with a 10-4 mark in those games.

Tide TV on RollTide.com
Games 1-5 of the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional will be available free to everyone on Tide TV through RollTide.com. ESPN2 and ESPN360.com will then televise Saturday’s championship game(s) live beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Morgan 1 of 10 Finalists for USA Softball POY
Charlotte Morgan is among 10 finalists for the 2008 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Award presented by the Amateur Softball Association. Morgan, a sophomore from Moreno Valley, Calif., is a dual threat for the Tide with a .425 batting average and a SEC-best 69 RBI that ranks third nationally and is tied for the most in school history. She also boasts a 15-2 record in the circle with a 1.43 ERA and a .207 opponent batting average. Brittany Rogers, a junior from Dacula, Ga., was among the 25 finalists before the list was trimmed prior to the conference tournament. Rogers is hitting .433 and leading the nation with 53 stolen bases.

Tide Earn Seven All-Conference Selections
A school-record seven Alabama players earned All-SEC recognition for their play in 2008. Pitcher Kelsi Dunne was named the SEC Freshman of the Year as well as a first-team all-conference pick. Charlotte Morgan, Brittany Rogers and Kelley Montalvo also joined Dunne on the first team. Senior outfielders Jordan Praytor and Dani Woods along with junior catcher Ashley Holcombe garnered second-team honors. Praytor was also selected as the SEC’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Dunne SEC Pitcher of the Year; Praytor SEC Scholar-Athlete
Kelsi Dunne became the fifth Alabama player to earn SEC Freshman of the Year honors. The Port Orange, Fla., native has a 22-4 record in her rookie campaign with a 1.40 ERA and 231 strikeouts, which ranks as the sixth-best single-season total in school history. Dunne owns wins over No. 1 Florida, then-No. 4 Tennessee, then-No. 10 LSU, No. 11 Northwestern and then-No. 15 Mississippi State.

Jordan Praytor, a senior from Vancouver, Wash., was named the SEC Softball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Praytor boasts a 3.75 grade-point average while majoring in biology and Spanish. She is a finalist for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award and named ESPN The Magazine Second-Team Academic All-District 4. Praytor was a second-team All-SEC performer on the diamond with a .299 average in SEC play with five home runs and 18 RBI.

Tide Net Four ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Honors
Sophomore first baseman/pitcher Charlotte Morgan led a group of four Alabama softball players on the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District 4 team. Morgan garnered first team honors with a 3.75 grade-point average in exercise sports science. Jordan Praytor, Ashley Holcombe and Chrissy Owens were selected to the second team for their academic and athletic accomplishments. Praytor has a 3.75 gpa in biology and Spanish while Holcombe carries a 3.57 gpa in marketing and Owens has a 3.29 gpa in marketing.

Three Crimson Tide Earn SEC All-Defensive Recognition
Center fielder Brittany Rogers, catcher Ashley Holcombe and third baseman Kelley Montalvo were named to the SEC All-Defensive team in 2008. Montalvo made just two errors in 156 chances at third base for a .987 fielder percentage. Holcombe did not make an error in SEC play and allowed just six stolen bases. Rogers made nearly every play possible in center field, making just two errors while tracking down balls from gap-to-gap and going up and over the fence to bring back home runs.

Rogers Breaks Stolen Base Record

Brittany Rogers set an impressive school record just midway through her junior season at the Capstone. Rogers swiped her 134 career base on Sunday, April 20, against South Carolina. In the process, she passed Kelly Kretschman’s school record of 133. Kretschman had held every Alabama career offensive record in her four-year career that spanned from 1998-2001. Rogers now has 139 steals in 159 career attempts. Rogers also has the top two single season stolen base marks in school history with 48 in 2007 and 53 and counting in 2008.

Slick-Fielding Tide
Good defense is many times the key component to winning softball and the Crimson Tide is among the best defensive teams in the country in 2008. Alabama boasts a .975 fielding percentage in 57 games this season. UA has not made an error in 30 of 57 games this season. The Tide’s fielding numbers were even better in SEC play with a .984 fielding percentage over 28 games this season. UA has made just 12 errors in 730 chances during conference action, including 18 error-free games.

All-Star Candidates
Charlotte Morgan is a strong candidate for All-America honors. The native of Moreno Valley, Calif., is hitting .425 with 16 home runs, 18 doubles and 69 RBI, which ranks third nationally and is tied for the most in school history. She is also 15-2 in the circle with a 1.43 ERA, while boasting a 10-1 record in SEC play with a 1.00 ERA that ranked second in the league. 

• Freshman hurler Kelsi Dunne has made strong case for SEC Pitcher of the Year and was named the SEC Freshman of the Year. She has a 22-4 overall record and a 1.40 ERA. She was second in the league with 114 Ks in conference games and has 231 in 33 total appearances this season.

• Center fielder Brittany Rogers leads the country in stolen bases with 53, including a SEC-best 25 in league play while hitting .433 and leading the nation in runs scored (69).

• Kelley Montalvo is one of the best defensive players in the country with a staggering .987 fielding percentage at third base in 157 chances at the hot corner. She is fielding .985 in SEC games while hitting .419 in league play and .393 overall. She is reaching base at an astounding .532 clip overall and .547 in SEC play.

• Catcher Ashley Holcombe has been amazing behind the dish with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage while throwing out two base runners and picking one off. She is also hitting .303 in with five home runs 21 RBI. There have been just 19 stolen base attempts on the strong-armed backstop this season while throwing out six.

Keys to Winning
The Crimson Tide have been clutch at the plate this season and no statistics better illustrate that point than their .356 average with runners in scoring position and their two-out 150 RBI

Lauren Parker and Brittany Rogers are leading the Tide at the plate with runners in scoring position. Parker is hitting .477 (21 for 44) and Rogers is hitting .508 (30 for 59) while Charlotte Morgan (.468), Kelley Montalvo (.384) and Dani Woods (.397) are close behind.

With two outs in an inning the Tide have produced 42.1 percent of their RBI this season (150 of 356). Morgan has paced the Tide with a .467 (28 for 60) average with 24 two-out RBI. Rogers is also hitting .467 (21 for 45) while Kellie Eubanks is tied with Morgan for the most two-out RBI with 24.

SEC Tournament Recap
Alabama advanced to the SEC Tournament Championship Game before dropping a 4-1 decision to Florida on a sixth-inning Gator grand slam. The Crimson Tide won the opening game of the tournament against Mississippi State before defeating host LSU 7-4 in the semifinals. Charlotte Morgan, Kelsi Dunne and Whitney Larsen were named to the SEC All-Tournament team.

SEC Chart Toppers
The University of Alabama has played outstanding softball this season and it has shown in the SEC team statistics. The Tide paced the league in 12 offensive categories in conference games only, including; average (.332), slugging percentage (.598), on-base percentage (.433), runs (195), hits (238), home runs (43), doubles (54), stolen bases (68), total bases (429), walks (105), hit by pitches (27) and RBI (177).

Terror from the Leadoff Spot
Crimson Tide All-American Brittany Rogers has proven that she belongs in not only any discussion of the best leadoff hitters in the nation, but best players period. Rogers, a second-team All-American in 2007, is having one of the best seasons of any player across the country. Rogers is hitting .433 (81-of-187) through 57 games, leading the team and among the best in the SEC. She averages 1.42 hits per game and also leads the Tide and the country with 69 runs scored and 53 stolen bases. Rogers earned SEC Player of the Week accolades and was named Hampton Inn Crimson Classic MVP after hitting .696 and stealing 10 bases.

Shutout Trio
Kelsi Dunne, Chrissy Owens and Charlotte Morgan have been shutting down opponents this season. Dunne has held the opponent scoreless 10 times this sesaon, which ranks as tied for the sixth-most shutouts in school history. That includes wins over No. 4 Tennessee. No. 4 Florida, No. 15 Mississippi State, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Arkansas, South Carolina and State again in the SEC Tournament. Owens came within a strike of recording the second perfect-game in school history on April 2 at Samford and then shut down South Carolina for the 24th complete-game shutout of her career on April 20. Morgan has four shutouts on the season, blanking Ole Miss, LSU, Arkansas and South Carolina. The trio has combined for 18 shutouts this season.

Two No-Nos for Rookie Dunne
It only took five starts, but Tide true freshman pitcher Kelsi Dunne etched her name in the UA record books with a breakout pitching performance against Illinois on Feb. 22. The Port Orange, Fla., native returned to her home state and threw the 12th no-hitter in Crimson Tide history in a 6-0 win over the Illini. The performance was truly dominating, as Dunne allowed only two base runners in the historic win. Dunne followed that up with her second no-hitter of the season in a five-inning effort against Ole Miss on March 30. She struck out 11 and allowed just two base runners on a walk and a hit by pitch.

K Machine
Freshman pitcher Kelsi Dunne has demonstrated her ability to baffle hitters in her first 26 career starts. Dunne leads the team with 231 strikeouts in 175.1 innings pitched, an average of 9.22 K’s per seven innings. She struck out 11 in her collegiate debut and has 10 shutouts and 15 complete games included in her 22-4 pitching record. Dunne owns a 1.40 ERA and has made 33 appearances this season. She fanned a season-high 15 in eight innings at Auburn on April 12 and has eight double-digit strikeout games.

Tide in the Rankings
Alabama’s top-three ranking is backed up by its numbers in 2008. The Crimson Tide rank in the top 11 in eight categories in the NCAA’s eighth rankings of the season that were released on May 13. The Crimson Tide leads the nation in stolen bases with 2.65 per game (151 of 171) and scoring (7.02). UA is third in slugging percentage (.552), batting average (.330) and winning percentage (.895). Alabama is fifth in doubles (1.86 or 106) while ranking 11th in home runs (1.16) and ninth in fielding percentage (.975).

Individually, Brittany Rogers is far and away the top base stealer in the country, averaging .93 per game (53 for 58), and the top run scorer at 1.21 per game. She also ranks 17th in batting average (.433). Charlotte Morgan ranks third in RBI (1.21 per game for a total of 69) and 19th in home runs (.29) per game, 29th in doubles (.32). Chrissy Owens is tied for 10th nationally in saves with five while Dani Woods ranks 12th in walks per game with .76. Kelsi Dunne is 22nd nationally in strikeouts per seven innings (9.22) while placing 35th in wins (22) and 39th in ERA (1.40).

Clutch Hittin’ Kellie

Alabama shortstop Kellie Eubanks seems to be coming up big in tight situations for the Tide as of late. The junior’s last three home runs – she now has seven on the season – have come late in games when Alabama has needed her most. Eubanks first big home run came in the first game of the LSU series with the Tide trailing 4-0 with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning. She tagged a three-run home run vs. the Tigers as UA went on for a 9-8 win in 10 innings. Eubanks then hammered a two-out solo shot in extra innings at Auburn that proved to be the difference in a 5-4 win. She finally gave Alabama a little breathing room in the top of the seventh inning at Arkansas Thursday night with a three-run shot to put the Razorbacks away in a 4-0 Tide win. Eubanks is hitting .289 on the season with 40 RBI and a .424 on-base percentage. Eubanks is tied for the team lead with 24 two-out RBI this season.

The Natural
Despite battling a slew of injuries in the second half of her sophomore season and not starting 28 games in her junior campaign, All-American Lauren Parker has still managed to have a significant impact on the Tide’s offense. She completely missed 18 of Alabama’s 57 games this season, Parker has seven home runs with a .347 batting average and 34 RBI. She also boasts a .642 slugging percentage. Parker returned to the starting lineup in the SEC Tournament and is expected to play in the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional. Prior to her start vs. LSU on May 9, Parker had not started a game due to her shoulder injury since April 12 at Auburn.

Top of the Lineup
One of the keys to Alabama’s explosive offense throughout the past two seasons has been the production at the top of the lineup. That trend has continued in the 2008 season. In the Tide’s 57 games, the first five batters in the UA lineup have been nothing short of phenomenal. In that span, the top five hitters have gone 314-for-841 (.373), scored 254 of the team’s 400 runs and have driven in 237.

Grand Slams
The Alabama offense has demonstrated its ability to put up runs in bunches this season, and nothing puts runs on the board faster than a grand slam. So far this season, Tide hitters have blasted six home runs with the bases loaded. The previous school record for grand slams was set in 2006, when Alabama hit five as a team. Dani Woods, Charlotte Morgan, Kellie Eubanks, Whitney Larsen, Jordan Praytor and Kelley Montalvo have each hit one grand slam in 2008. Praytor and Montalvo both connected for their grand slams yesterday vs. Georgia. Praytor went deep in game one, and it was her first grand slam at any level of her softball career. Montalvo hit her slam in game two and it was the second of her UA career (5/6/06 vs. Arkansas), tying her with Morgan and Eubanks for second place all-time behind Christy Kyle (1997-2000), who hit four over her career with the Tide.

Run Production
Last year’s Crimson Tide team was an offensive juggernaut, setting a variety of all-time Alabama and SEC offensive records. The 2008 team has been even more impressive through 57 games, lighting up scoreboards regularly. Alabama is averaging 7.02 runs per game in 2008 and has scored more than 10 runs in 11 games. The Tide set the school and SEC record last season by averaging 7.12 runs per contest.

500 K’s
Senior Chrissy Owens joined an elite club at Alabama when she recorded her 500th career strikeout in the win over New Mexico. Entering the game with 499 career punch outs, Owens wasted no time getting No. 500 out of the way. She struck out the first batter she faced, New Mexico’s Samantha Hughes, to become the fourth UA pitcher in history to eclipse the 500 mark, joining Stephanie VanBrakle, Shelley Laird and Erin Wright as the only Tide pitchers to make up the exclusive 500 K club. Owens now has 580 career strikeouts in 536.2 innings over her four-year career.

Praytor is Lowe’s Senior CLASS Finalist
Alabama’s senior Jordan Praytor is one of 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. The award is given to the nation’s best college softball player who also excels in the classroom and makes an impact in their community. The award, presented to NCAA Division I student-athletes each year in eight sports, focuses on the “Four C’s” of classroom, character, community and competition. Go to www.seniorclassaward.com to vote for Praytor.

Praytor Selected in NPF Draft
University of Alabama senior utility player Jordan Praytor was recently selected by the New England Riptide of the National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) Softball League in its annual Senior Draft.  Praytor, a two-time All-Southeastern Conference selection (2006-07) and a 2008 Preseason All-American by ESPN.com, was taken with the 22nd selection overall in the fourth round of the draft.

UA’s Kretschman Named to USA Olympic Team
Alabama great Kelly Kretschman (1998-2001) was named to the 2008 USA Olympic Softball Team the Amateur Softball Association of America (ASA) announced on Friday, March 28. Kretschman was a four-time All-American for Tide and owns every career offensive record at Alabama. She helped Team USA capture the Gold Medal in dominating fashion in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, and was an alternate on the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team.

Streak Halted at 26 Games
Alabama had won 26 straight games before dropping a 1-0 decision in eight innings to DePaul in Chicago on April 29. The Crimson Tide had not lost since March 12 when they split a doubleheader with No. 3 Florida. The 26-game winning streak was the second longest in school history behind a 27-game streak in 2001. The Crimson Tide beat No. 11 Northwestern 6-5 in eight innings on April 29 to break a tie with the 2007 that won 25 consecutive games.

Non-Conference Recap
Alabama wrapped up its non-conference play with a near-perfect record. The Tide came out of the gate with 17-straight victories. The lone blemish on the record came against No. 25 ranked Washington in the Husky Classic in Seattle, Wash. Alabama is a combined 57-3 in its last three seasons against its preseason opponents. Alabama went a perfect 21-0 last year before SEC play.

Sold Out
The success of the UA softball program under head coach Patrick Murphy can be seen by simply looking around the Alabama Softball Facility. As the wins have, the Crimson Tide fan base has grown steadily. From a handful of supporters in the early days of the Murphy era, Alabama has come to be among the nation’s leaders in attendance on a perennial basis. On January 28, the UA ticket office sold its 1,595th and final season ticket for the 2008 season, giving the Tide an unprecedented season-long sellout in Tuscaloosa. It is unknown whether this feat has been equaled at any other softball program nationally.

In 2008, Alabama is once again setting attendance records. The Tide is average a school-record 2,069 per game and has sold 51,734 tickets this season. The Tide has seen 15 crowds of 2,000 or more in 2008 with a new school record of 2,461 coming in at doubleheader vs. LSU on April 5. In 2007, the Tide ranked third in the nation in average attendance, bringing in an average of 1,436 fans per game at home.

Strength of Schedule
After a disappointing seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament, Murphy and his staff have assembled one of the most challenging schedules in Alabama softball history. The Tide will square off against no fewer than nine teams ranked in the two national softball preseason polls. Alabama faces Northwestern (7/6), DePaul (10/8), Washington (11/14) and Georgia Tech (17/18) in non-conference action. The Tide meets Tennessee (6/11), LSU (9/7) and Florida (13/13) in SEC action this season. Alabama went 11-9 against ranked teams in 2007.

Alongside the team accomplishments the Crimson Tide earned a season ago, three players added to the already long list of individual standouts in UA softball history. Lauren Parker, Brittany Rogers and Chrissy Owens each earned All-American distinction following the 2007 season, bringing the number of All-Americans in Alabama softball history to 44.

Parker earned first team honors from the NFCA and Easton All-American teams after one of the best offensive seasons in school history. Rogers earned NFCA second team accolades and Owens was a third team selection. In the 2008 preseason, three Tide players were selected by ESPN.com. Parker was a first team honoree, while Rogers and Jordan Praytor made second team.

NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional Schedule
Thursday, May 15

Game 1: Florida State (home) vs. Jacksonville State (visitors), 4 p.m.

Game 2: Alabama (home) vs. Chattanooga (visitors), 6:30 p.m.

Friday, May 16

Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 2:30 p.m.

Game 4: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 5 p.m.

Game 5: Loser Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, May 17

Game 6: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 5, 7:30 – ESPN2/ESPN360.com

Game 7 (if necessary): Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 6, 9:30 p.m. – ESPN2/ESPN360.com

Editor’s note: If you read this far, you must really love softball. Anyway, thanks to UA for sending out this massive amount of information on the sport. The girls who achieve deserve some positive attention and recognition.