(Chet White, UK Athletics)
Kentucky softball will wrap up its regular season this weekend with a series against the defending national champions. The Wildcats will travel to Tuscaloosa to face off against the Alabama Crimson Tide, before gearing up to begin the SEC Tournament next Wednesday, hosted in Lexington at the brand new John Cropp Stadium.
Going 5-4 in its last nine games, but with two victories against top-15 teams, Kentucky is looking for some added momentum as its heads into post season play. With just an 11-10 conference record, albeit in the mighty Southeastern Conference, the Cats are sitting in 7th place and aren’t looking at an overly favorable matchup for the conference tournament. However, because of the brutal non-conference schedule, and the fact that the ladies faired pretty well getting through it, UK is prepared and equipped to deal with the tough run towards Oklahoma City for the Woman’s College World Series.
Outside the SEC, Kentucky posted an impressive 25-6 record with wins over the No. 3, No. 16, and No. 20 ranked teams. Consider also, half of those six losses came to the No. 1 and No. 4 and No. 16 teams in the country.
Suffice it to say; these Wildcats have fought through an incredibly tough schedule and prevailed with a very good mark. Currently ranked No. 19 in the country by ESPN, the RPI gives respect to the strength of schedule, tabbing the Cats as the 11th-best team. Looking ahead, Kentucky has clinched a SEC Tournament berth, but there is always room for improvement: The series against Alabama could bump Kentucky up to 4th in the conference standings if things play out to the Cats’ advantage. But if things go bad, UK could drop as low as 9th. Obviously the results in the conference tourney will have a great impact on how the Wildcats are seeded in the NCAA Tournament, so this series against Alabama is a big one.
This is not the same Crimson Tide team that simply dismantled the competition last season en route to its title. Although Alabama is still a powerhouse, no doubt, this is a very winnable series for the Cats. Heading out on the road to face the No. 7 team may sound like a difficult task, but Bama is coming off its first three-game losing skid since early March following a sweep by LSU. If there were ever a vulnerable time for Alabama, it is now.
The Alabama series will open tonight at 7:30, continue on Saturday at 3 p.m., and conclude on Sunday at 2:30.