‘They’re all going to be gunning for us’

The SEC softball tournament begins today in Tuscaloosa. Here’s a quick primer before top-seed Alabama faces Mississippi State at 7 on ESPN …

TUSCALOOSA — Home is sweet unless you’re hosting the SEC softball tournament.

Not once in the eight years postseason games were played on campus has the home team walked away a champion. Therein lies the challenge for Alabama.

The No. 1-seeded Crimson Tide, ranked third nationally, won’t travel when opening the single-elimination, eight-team tournament at 7 tonight with Mississippi State. SEC bracket play returns to Tuscaloosa for the first time since 2004, and the four-time champion Tide are positioned to end the curse of the host.

Also qualifying was seventh-seeded Auburn. The Tigers (33-20) meet No. 2-seed Tennessee (45-9) in the second quarterfinal at 1:30 p.m.

For Alabama, just winning a third straight regular-season title won’t guarantee anything.

Named SEC coach of the year Wednesday, Tide coach Patrick Murphy called this the most competitive eight-team tournament outside the Women’s College World Series.

So taking the home-field advantage for granted isn’t an option.

“They’re all going to be gunning for us,” Murphy said. “That’s the fact of life. I’ve said it a million times, and (Alabama basketball coach) Anthony Grant came and talked to us a month ago. That’s the first thing he said. ‘You know you have a target on your back, right?’

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