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February 24, 2013

SOFTBALL: Traina shuts down Iowa

TUSCALOOSA | Maybe Jackie Traina didn't have her absolute best stuff Saturday at the Bama Bash.

Perhaps the ace pitcher for the No. 1-ranked University of Alabama softball team, and most valuable player of the Crimson Tide's national championship run through the Women's College World Series, hasn't completely hit her stride this early in the 2013 season. Or maybe it was the cold, windy conditions.

No matter. Traina cruised through a 4-1 victory over Iowa, a team that came in with quality wins over ranked Louisiana-Lafayette and postseason contenders Oklahoma State and Houston.

Alabama defeated Western Illinois 6-0 in the nightcap to improve to 15-0.

Traina (8-0) yielded just four hits, including a solo home run on a hanging dropball in the seventh and final inning for Iowa's only run. UA's junior fireballer struck out 10 batters but walked three.

The blustery weather was as much of a challenge as Iowa's bats for a pitcher who grew up in Florida.

"You learn to deal with it," Traina said. "You do little things so you keep your fingers warm so you can feel the ball."

Iowa coach Marla Looper knows top-end pitching. She was pitching coach at Texas when Cat Osterman, arguably the best pitcher in the history of college softball, played there. Looper sees in Traina the things she looks for in a dominant pitcher.

"I think the best part about her watching her as an opponent is her command on the mound," Looper said. "You want to see someone who has that presence, that it looks like it's their field when they step up there whether they have their best stuff or not. I think she has that."

Catcher Chaunsey Bell had the best view of Traina's performance.

"She's very strong," Bell said. "She puts the team on her back and just does it."

The Iowa outing was a good early measure of Traina. She was facing the same team for the second time in less than 18 hours, a situation Traina will surely face some weekends in Southeastern Conference play when UA plays opponents three times over three days. Against Iowa (9-5), last year's runner-up in the Big Ten, Traina gave up just the one run in 14 total innings.

"That's exactly what's going to happen in SEC," Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. "You're going to see the same hitters. Somebody is going to make an adjustment, either their hitters or our pitchers. This was a good day to try that out."

Traina also went 2-for-3 with an RBI at the plate.

Freshman Haylie McCleney went 5-for-7 with two runs scored, two RBIs and three stolen bases over the two games. She also had three big plays in the outfield to keep Iowa from scoring, including a diving, full-run catch.

"That's all her," Murphy said. "You just cannot coach that."

Jadyn Spencer went 2-for-3 with a home run against Western Illinois. Traina's backup, Leslie Jury (5-0) threw a three-hit shutout with nine strikeouts.

Reach Tommy Deas at tommy@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0224.

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