Softball claims SEC tourney title

PLANT CITY, FL -- As it has so many times in the past, it came down once again to Alabama-LSU and this time the 16th ranked Crimson Tide (45-19) came out on the winning end, taking the championship game and winning the 2003 SEC Tournament Championship 3-1 over the No. 12 ranked LSU Tigers (49-16) 3-1.

LSU drew first blood in the top of the second inning, with Tessa Lynam jumping on a two-out, 2-2 pitch and hitting a liner over the center field fence for a 1-0 Tiger lead.

The Tide tried to get these going in the bottom of the second with Stephanie VanBrakle leading off with a walk. She was sacrificed to second by Lacy Prejean but the next two Alabama batters could not advance her.

The Crimson Tide tied it in the bottom of the third, taking advantage of an LSU miscue. Dominique Accetturo led off the inning with a double and was pinch run for by Leah White. White advanced to third on a sacrifice from Jennifer Reach and came in to score when Ashley Courtney hit a high fly ball in front of the plate but it was dropped by Tiger third baseman Julie Wiese and rolled far enough away for White to come in and score and tie the game at 1-1.

VanBrakle put the Crimson Tide ahead in the bottom of the fourth inning when she took the first pitch from LSU pitcher Kristen Schmidt and hit her 10th home run of the year, a tape-measure shot over the left field fence giving Alabama a 2-1 lead. VanBrakle's home run gave her the second most in Alabama history by a freshman. Four-time All-American Kelly Kretschman hit 25 as a freshman in the 1998 season.

The Crimson Tide seemingly ran into trouble in the top of the fifth, allowing a hit and committing an error putting LSU runners on first and second with one out. VanBrakle came on in relief of Alabama starter Erin Wright and on the first pitch got Tiger pinch hitter Lauren Delahoussaye to ground into a double play to end the LSU threat.

The Alabama offense started to click in the bottom of the fifth inning with Ashley Courtney reaching on a one-out infield single, followed by a first pitch single back up the middle from Jackie Wilkins, putting runners on first and second with one out. LSU second baseman Sara Fitzgerald then attempted a diving play on a bouncer up the middle from Jackie McClain but the ball caromed off her glove and into left field resulting in a one-run double for McClain and a 3-1 Alabama lead.

Dominique Accetturo and Stephanie VanBrakle were selected to the All-Tournament team, Accetturo at second base and VanBrakle as the DP/UTL. Accetturo finished with a .375 batting average while VanBrakle finished with a 0.00 ERA in 9.2 innings pitched, two home runs and four RBI.

Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said his team has been a dream to coach.

"This team has been so awesome to coach," Murphy said. "All you ask for as a coach is for your team to accept their roles and play as hard as they can. This team has accepted their roles and played them to a tee."

The Crimson Tide returns to action this week as the team hosts an NCAA Regional Championship. Action begins Thursday, May 15 at 9:30 a.m. Tickets are still available and can be purchased at the University of Alabama Athletic Ticket Office located in Coleman Coliseum, or fans can call 205.348.BAMA.

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