Across the Diamond: SEC Title on the Line in Baton Rouge
The final weekend of the regular season is here as Alabama softball prepares for the trip to Baton Rouge with a potential Southeastern Conference title and the SEC Tournament's top seed at stake.
Alabama leads the SEC standings with a 15-6 record in the conference while LSU is one game behind at 14-7 and Ole Miss 1.5 games behind the Crimson Tide at 13-7 in the SEC.
Difficulties Winning in Baton Rouge
Although Alabama softball has enjoyed many successful seasons against SEC competition, arguably the toughest road venue for the program has been the trip to LSU.
Since 2005, the Crimson Tide has lost every series to the Tigers in Baton Rouge including sweeps in 2009, 2011 and 2013.
Except for seniors Merris Schroder, Caroline Hardy and Reagan Dykes, none of the present members of the Alabama roster have played in Tiger Park against LSU.
With an SEC title on the line, junior center fielder Elissa Brown expressed her excitement about the challenge of playing at LSU's Tiger Park.
"Just from the coaches, they're really excited about going into LSU and being able to take the win from them and so when they want it, we want it as well. So we're just really excited to go down there and be a part of the atmosphere because it's going to fuel us just as much as it fuels them/" Brown said.
Being Aggressive at the Plate
Alabama struggled from the plate against Kentucky with just 6 runs and 21 hits over 26 at bats last weekend.
Going into this weekend, Elissa Brown noted a primary key for the Crimson Tide offense in this weekend's big battle in Baton Rouge.
"Really, just staying aggressive, ahead in the count, seeing our pitch and swinging at strikes is going to be the key going into LSU. We're getting kind of comfortable with where we are but we want to stay aggressive and know that what we can do is going to work." Brown said.
Similarly, head coach Patrick Murphy also highlighted how his hitters took too many hittable pitches against Kentucky.
"I just think the biggest thing after watching the games is we were taking too many good pitches." Murphy said. "We're taking a lot of good pitches on the heart of the plate and then when we get behind, we swing at pitcher's pitches."
Going into this weekend, Murphy mentioned a simple recipe for attacking quality pitchers.
"Don't let a pitcher get ahead of you. Swing early in the count, be ready to hit when you step in the box, be aggressive and swing with intent." Murphy said.
LSU Scouting Report
Going into the final weekend of the regular season, LSU comes in with a 40-12 overall record including a 14-7 mark in SEC play and a No. 8 ranking in this week's NCAA RPI rankings.
The Tigers possess one of the best offenses in the conference as they rank first in the league with a .324 team batting average, first in hits (427), second in runs scored (336), second in walks (208), tied for second in doubles (79) and third in home runs (67).
Individually, junior outfielder Aliyah Andrews leads the SEC in hits (67), runs scored (59) and stolen bases (44).
One area that Alabama could exploit a weakness for LSU is from the circle. The Tigers have issued the third most walks in the conference with 152 free passes and have the second fewest strikeouts in the SEC with 206 strikeouts.
Elissa Brown Reaches 100 Stolen Bases
Following the departure of Alabama softball legend Haylie McClenney after the 2016 season, Elissa Brown has provided a steady presence in center field with her glove, at the plate and on the base paths..
The junior from Eclectic, Alabama, has also increased her production offensively with a .340 batting average and a .390 on-base percentage. Her true presence is felt on the base paths as she is second in the conference with 40 stolen baes.
In the 3-2 loss in 13 innings to Kentucky, Brown surpassed 100 career stolen bases with two steals in the game.
During his visit on Southern Fried Sports with Travis Reier, Murphy spoke about her speed and the importance of utilizing it as a coach.
"It's just God-given talent. I'm the kind of coach that says, 'If you've got speed, we're going to use it. We're not going to just go station-to-station.' I'm going to give her the green light." Murphy said.
Alabama's head coach also pointed out how her improvement at the plate has allowed her to be more effective on the bases.
"The other thing that she's been doing this year, which is much better, is she's getting on base. You can't steal first because you got to get on base and then after that, it's all her." Murphy said.