Lady Vols to take on Alabama Friday in NCAA Super Regionals
Tennessee knows what it’s up against in the NCAA Super Regional, which begins Friday evening at Lee Stadium. And its familiarity with softball rival Alabama goes beyond their SEC affiliation.
“We’re mirror images of each other,” Tennessee co-head coach Karen Weekly said Tuesday.
The statistics reflect each team’s balance of speed and power.
The Lady Vols (47-10) are batting .337, and the Tide (45-13) is hitting .334. Alabama has eight more hits, eight more steals and one more home run.
The similarities will begin with the first at-bat. Alabama and Tennessee feature two of the best leadoff hitters in the country.
Alabama left fielder Kayla Braud leads the SEC in batting (.476) and hits (88). UT third baseman Raven Chavanne, who is batting .470 and has 87 hits, is second in both categories.
Chavanne leads the conference in runs scored (68) and steals (39). Braud is third with 64 runs scored and second with 38 steals.
“People have compared us since our freshman year since we both came in (the same year),” Chavanne said. “The only area where we’re different is the home run category.”
Chavanne has more power, as evidenced by her seven home runs this season. That’s one more home run than she hit in her first three college seasons combined. Braud has one home run this season.
Attack, Attack: The Lady Vols came out running in their 7-0 victory over N.C. State in the Knoxville Regional on Sunday. Chavanne expects another aggressive game plan against Alabama with a berth in the Women’s College World Series on the line.
“I think you have to be aggressive,” said Chavanne. “You don’t win championships or games by being careful.
“I think this is going to be an offensive Super Regional. They’re going to score runs. We’re going to score runs.
“Hopefully, our pitchers will hold them to less than what they usually score. I have faith that both of the Renfroes (Ivy and Ellen) will do that.”
Prepared For Speed: Alabama has been thrown out only 15 times in 131 steal attempts this season. But Tennessee’s speed has helped prepare catcher Hannah Akamine for the challenge.
“My team is one of the fastest in the nation,” she said. “So it has been really good to practice against them.”
And she knows she can do everything right and still not throw out that caliber of base runner.
“Tory Lewis and Raven Chavanne are really fast,” Akamine said. “They can get down the line in 1.7 seconds, so it’s pretty hard to get it down there (in time).”
Hitting Priorities: UT second baseman Lauren Gibson ranks fourth in the SEC with a .416 batting average and third with 18 home runs. But she puts more stock in another stat.
“The one that matters most is the RBIs,” she said.
She is tied for second in the conference with 66 RBIs.