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Three keys to WCWS...

  • Three WCWS thoughts as the Alabama softball team prepares to open play tonight against Tennessee at the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City:

    *Stay out of the loser's bracket early. While pitchers in softball eat up far more innings than those in baseball, keeping Jackie Traina fresh for as long as possible will certainly enhance UA's chances of winning the SEC's first national championship. With the gap between games for opening-game losers, this is as much about confidence as it is the physical aspect of the job. The more you win, the more invincible the most important player on your team feels. Lose early and that sense of invincibility can take a large hit.

    *Kayla Braud and Jennifer Fenton need to produce at the top of the lineup. Home runs are nice, but they won't be as easy to come by in OKC, especially the deeper you go. You're not going to bomb Cal's Jolene Henderson or Oklahoma's Keilani Ricketts during the latter stages of the tournament, so the need to manufacture runs will take on even more importance in OKC. Braud's speed and short game talents put a lot of pressure on the defense. It's that ability to apply pressure that makes all the difference when facing elite pitching.

    *Get Amanda Locke going in the middle of the lineup. Locke struggled in Regional and Super Regional play, going hitless over the five-game stretch. Considering the step up in competition, this isn't exactly the time to be in search of your stroke. Fortunately for UA, Kaila Hunt and Cassie Reilly-Boccia have picked up the slack during Locke's slump and Traina can provide quality at-bats as well.

    TR

    This post has been edited 4 times, most recently by Travis Reier 23 months ago

  • bama764

    TR you nailed it on the first point, as someone who coached travel softball for years staying out of the losers bracket is one of the most important things. Every game you win your confidence builds that much more.

    This post was edited by bama764 23 months ago

    "Character" is doing the right thing when nobody is looking.

  • Very good points. I would like to add that we need to play very good defense and not give a lot of extra outs to our opponents.

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  • Yep, that's the flip side of the short game. Have to be able to defend it, too.

    TR

  • The girls looked good at practice yesterday. This infield is going to enhance our short game. On the flip side of that our corners having playing the short game very well. Courtney Conley (3rd) and Cassie Reilly-Boccia (1st) played the bunts really well in regionals and supers. Courtney was especially great at anticipating the bunt and getting the ball out quickly. Tennessee likes to utilize the short game so we will have to be on top of that.

  • One thing I've noticed all year is the defense, and especially among the middle infielders. Therefore, I would also include defense, and avoiding errors as a big key as well. Bama ranks 97th in total Fielding Pct (.962) in the nation with 64 total errors, and ranks 7th among teams in OKC. The overall national Fielding Pct. rankings of the teams in the WCWS are: 1. UT (30 errors), 2.Cal (35 errors), 7. AzSt (38 errors), 29. OK (46 errors), 45. USF (57 errors), 69. LSU (61 errors), and 199. Oregon (88 errors).
    Out of the 64 errors Bama has had for the year, 30 of those errors came from the middle infield. In addition, the total errors are up from last year which was 51.

  • Playing UT a good thing or a bad thing? Would you rather face a familiar opponent in this spot or not?

  • 1.) Mission accomplished. Now it's on to the ASU-Oregon winner. As you might recall, UA beat Oregon in Eugene in early March. ASU has the better pitching of the two and Katelyn Boyd, one of the game's very best htters.

    2.) Braud and Fenton set the table early and continued to apply pressure throughout the game. If they combine to reach base five times (like they did tonight), UA's chances of winning go up exponentially.

    3.) Locke went hitless once again but she had some good swings, including the fly ball to left that looked to be headed to the seats before falling victim to the wind. In replacing Locke in the cleanup spot, Reilly-Boccia made Patrick Murphy look good with the three-run double in the first. Really love her approach. Takes a lot of pitches and doesn't give in.

    Solid effort all the way around. If ASU gets through, game two will be a finals-like matchup.

    TR

  • 1.) Win over ASU is huge for a number of reasons and the opportunity to get Traina a day off tops the list. Again, as much mentally as physically. Tight/inconsistent strike zone in ASU game made it even more of a grinder and with the real possibility of locking up with Cal's Henderson in the semis, the rest couldn't come at a better time.

    2.) Both Braud and Fenton continue to do a nice job at the top. Braud had an infield hit and forced an error, while Fenton came through with a big RBI single and had a nice slap hit herself. Other than Fenton's RBI, UA really struggled with RISP.

    3.) You could see it coming for Locke, whose solo shot to center provided the winning margin. Had good swings against UT and broke the snide with an infield hit against ASU. Sometimes those are the ones that do it. Having Locke in a good place takes some additional pressure off Traina to produce at the plate.

    Tide will face Cal, UT or Oregon on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. CT. Like a year ago, UA must be beaten twice in the semis. Alabama has wins over UT and Oregon this season but Cal is more than capable of winning three games in two days. Safe to say, though, that Patrick Murphy wouldn't trade places with the Bears right now.

    TR

    This post was edited by Travis Reier 22 months ago

  • And as netny so accurately called pre-WCWS, the corners of the UA infield have been outstanding against the short game. Conley showed some serious guts in taking out the lead runner on the ASU bunt in the seventh.

    TR

  • sf2k4

    Now we need to work on not leaving so many runners in scoring position and calm the pace in the infield and shore up the little mistakes and bobbled balls. This team has all the tools to win it all if they stay focused.

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  • Courtney Conley is the best defensive 3rd baseman in the SEC. Raven Chavanne of UT is also really good, but Courtney makes the plays she's supposed to make as well as the amazing ones. I think it was in the Florida series she fielded a bunt then went almost parallel to the ground to make the throw to 1st gunning the runner. There's not a better defensive 1st baseman then CRB. She's only like an inch taller than me, but I swear she can stretch like some sort of rubber band man. I wish all of you could experience this atmosphere out here in OKC. I'm so loving it.

  • When Locke hit her solo, I got "that" feeling like this may be the year. Holding ASU to one run, a few infield errors, leaving 8 on base and we still win? It just has that feel....we shall see. RTR

  • Conleys play to second for the out was HUGH!!!!! This team really has a will to win. Getting that lead runner is so important in softball. A base hit to the out field scores that run almost every time.

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  • 1.) Now the grind truly begins. Potentially four games in four days and neither OU or Alabama is going to go with anyone but its No. 1 in the best of three series. Fortunately for both, they've only played three games in the last four days, so Ricketts and Traina will be relatively fresh. Sadly, umpiring at this level isn't as good as it should be. It wasn't that the home plate umpire for Alabama-Cal was inconsistent, it was that she never established a strike zone of any kind. The only so-called positive was that she was equally random in her ball-strike calls.

    2.) Braud and Fenton have gone a combined 10 for 21 with three runs scored in the first three games. Ricketts, an imposing left-hander, can make life extremely difficult for left-handed hitters. It will be interesting to see how the lefty vs. lefty matchups play out at the top of the UA order.

    3.) Locke went 0 for 3 against Cal, but Hunt, Traina and Jaz Lunceford were so productive it didn't matter. The fact that UA got production throughout the lineup against one of the game's top pitchers was probably the biggest positive from to come from Sunday's win.

    TR

  • 1.) Traina wasn't as sharp in game one against OU, but give the Sooners credit for being productive throughout the lineup. Say this for Traina: given the constant pressure she was under, a lot of pitchers would have been headed back to the hotel after five innings. On a night when she wasn't at her best, the sophomore mustered everything she could to keep her team within reach. As for game two, there is no decision for Patrick Murphy to make. Traina gets the ball and Murphy can only hope his ace's location returns to what it was in the first three games of the WCWS.

    2.) Big sequence involved the base running mistake on the front end of a base hit from Braud in the third. Of course, Fenton then followed with a hit of her own, but nothing came from the opportunity. Fenton was outstanding at the plate, consistently putting the ball in play and looking as comfortable (if that's possible) against Keilani Ricketts as any hitter in the Alabama lineup. Braud will need to put the ball in play more against Ricketts tomorrow night.

    3.) Locke struck out in each of her three at bats. Given the need to put the ball in play more against Ricketts, do you go to more of a contact hitter in Locke's place for game two if you're Murphy? The guess here is that he'll stick with the all-american, but it may be an at bat-by-at bat consideration. Give Locke credit, she tried to shorten up with two strikes and runners in scoring position. The book OU has on Hunt must be to throw the change up because she got a steady diet of them Monday night. And after going 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in game one, she'll see some more of them Tuesday night. For UA to have a chance to take the next games, Hunt and/or Locke are going to have to produce like the all-americans they are.

    Ultimately, this game was more about how good Ricketts and Oklahoma was than how badly Alabama performed. The Sooners were clearly the better team in game one, but there's more than one game to be played. And Alabama has been pretty good in championship rematches since the New Year.

    TR

  • sf2k4

    I really thought Locke was out of her funk after that big HR she had.

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  • Ricketts can do that to you, especially if you've got a big swing. Tough to be a bomber against her because she can snap the curve under your hands at 72 mph and then follow it up with a 55 mph change. And throw BOTH for strikes. If you get second and third with no outs against her, you've got to get the ball in play. Easier said than done, though.

    TR

  • Attention ho TR. Just start a new thread like every body else does.(g)

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  • I'll add that OK's top 4 batters and Bama's top four batters both had a total 4 hits each. The difference was that OK's 5-9 batters had 7 hits compared to our 5-9 batters having only 1. The bottom of our lineup has step up tomorrow when we have runners on base. TR, as you stated, when the big "Mo" swings our way we can't kill it by mental mistakes.

    Although we were down 2-1 in the 6th, the two straight errors with no outs hurt us as well.

  • Yep, they were good throughout the lineup and you're right about the D in the 6th. Believe both of those runs were unearned. Tough to count on the bottom of the lineup against Ricketts but it would be nice. Need more from Hunt and Reilly-Boccia in the middle because Locke's approach isn't favorable against Ricketts.

    TR

  • Travis, thanks for posting some sanity to the board. All is not lost and I truly believe we will see a different team on the field tomorrow.
    I follow softball very closely especially this season. I've felt like this team had the makings of a national championship and still do. This team is very resilient. Keep in mind the last time these ladies lost a game like this one they came back and ruled the same team the next day. You've got to have a short memory with games like this. Even with the mistakes and what not we were still in the game until the 6th. Let's lace 'em up and go after it tomorrow.

    This post was edited by netny10 22 months ago

  • Danae Hayes needs to rebound tonight defensively. She got in a mental funk last night after that first misplay that compounded into about three fielding and/or mental errors.

  • Biggest thing is our hitters do not need to swing at every pitch that Gorilla Jane throws. Too many we chased balls way outside the zone.

  • 1.) It wasn't the finish UA would've liked, but that's the luxury of having a seven-run lead going into the final inning. What we learned from the first two games of this series: Traina may not strike out a dozen batters, but she'll figure out a way to keep her team in it. That wasn't the case Tuesday night with Ricketts, who hit more batters (five) than she allowed hits to (three). OU going to the bullpen early was as much about preserving Ricketts' confidence as it was lessening the load physically in anticipation of game three. Expect Traina to be solid once again in game three. The question is, which Ricketts will UA see -- game one or game two?

    2.) How does UA score eight runs when its table setters strikeout five times in nine at bats? Getting four walks, six batters hit by pitch and two errors from OU certainly helped. It was Braud and Fenton who got things going in the four-run fourth, with Braud taking a Ricketts pitch off her foot and Fenton, as good of a No. 2 hitter as you'll find in softball or baseball, laying down a perfect bunt for a hit. OU's lefties were tough on Braud in game two. The curveball and changeup combo from OU's two lefthanders combined with Braud's slap approach made for three strikeouts in game two.

    Unlike game one, UA took a two-strike approach with Ricketts from the outset of game two. Traina's three-run double in the second was a prime example of a hitter making the needed adjustment and executing. Instead of being overly aggressive, her primary goal was to put the ball in play. With their backs against the wall, Alabama hitters weren't going to concede the inside part of the plate, as evidenced by their willingness to take one (or six) for the team.

    3.) Murphy's juggling of Locke and Keima Davis didn't produce like he would have hoped initially, as Davis failed to get a bunt down (can't take a called second strike when the sole purpose of the at-bat is to bunt a runner over) with a runner on first and nobody out. Still, the thinking behind the move was sound, as was the decision to re-enter Locke for Davis the next time through. Locke validated the move, delivering what would prove to be three important runs with a two-out double to the gap in left-center. From adjusting his team's offensive approach to managing the lineup, Murphy gave his team every chance to win.

    As for Wednesday night, I think it will come down to the defenses. Offensively, both teams know what they're going to see from a pitching standpoint, so the ball will likely be put in play at a higher rate than we saw in either of the first two games. That means whichever team plays the cleanest game defensively will be in good shape to win the national title.

    TR

    This post was edited by Travis Reier 22 months ago