Missouri softball team prepares for tough road test at Alabama

Thursday, April 4, 2013 | 8:17 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Sarah Moore got to University Field early. She didn't stay in the locker room to gossip with her teammates or take her time putting her uniform on. She came early to practice.

The freshman, who is batting .188, is preparing for No.4/7 Alabama (33-5, 8-4 SEC). After a slew of run-rule games against unranked teams, Moore and the No. 7/6 Tigers (22-2, 7-1 SEC) are ready for a tough matchup; the Crimson Tide is only the third ranked team the Tigers have faced this season.

"When we played Florida, she had a home run," coach Ehren Earleywine said. "And when we've played good pitching, she hits the ball hard, so that's such proof that it's not about numbers."

Moore and the Tigers will most likely face junior Jackie Traina in Games 1 and 3, with Alabama's number two or three pitcher starting Saturday. The Crimson Tide ace is 15-3 with a 1.74 ERA in 18 starts this season.

Last weekend, Traina and the Crimson Tide took two out of three at No. 9/10 Texas A&M, with Traina allowing just two hits and a run in a 4-1 victory Sunday.

Alabama pitching will have to face the hot Missouri bats, which have outscored opponents 102-6 in the past 10 games.

"They're (Missouri hitters) not going to continue at that pace against 'Bama, that's not going to happen," Earleywine said. "But man, if we can squeeze out three, four, five runs, we got a chance to win a game or two."

Defensively, Missouri will have to watch out for Alabama on the base path as the Crimson Tide is second in the nation in stolen bases, just one behind James Madison. Missouri catcher Jenna Marston has thrown out 67 percent of base runners this season.

Alabama hitters will also have to deal with Missouri ace Chelsea Thomas (13-1), who Earleywine hopes to start all three games. Thomas' 0.58 ERA leads the Southeastern Conference and is second overall.

"I'm actually really excited, I think it will be a great series and we'll have a couple TV games to show our stuff," Thomas said. "I think that will be pretty awesome."

All time, Alabama holds a slim 5-4 lead over Missouri in the series and their first series as SEC foes promises to be a good one.

"It will be awesome, 4,000 people at 'Bama and it will be a great softball atmosphere," Earleywine said. "I think a lot of softball people around the country are watching this weekend. I mean, it's a pretty tasty matchup."

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