Alabama Advances In SEC Tournament

Alabama had some good hitting, some good pitching, and some good defense, all-in-all sufficient to advance to the semifinals in the Southeastern Conference Tournament with a 5-2 victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs Thursday. More Bulldogs await Bama.



The SEC Tournament is lining up just as expected with the top four seeds winning on opening day. On Friday, number one seed Alabama will play the fourth-seeded Georgia Bulldogs (4-2 winner over Kentucky in Thursday's first round) at 4:30 p.m. CDT. That game will follow second-seeded Florida (a 1-0 winner over LSU) meeting three seed Tennessee (2-1 over Auburn) at 2 p.m. CDT. Friday's games will be televised by ESPNU.

Rhoads Stadium provided SEC records for attendance for a single session (2,691) and for single day (4,909).

Senior centerfielder Jennifer Fenton led the way for the Tide with three hits while senior first baseman Cassie Reilly-Boccia chipped in two with three others adding one each. Kaila Hunt drove in three runs. All five of Mississippi State's hits came from different batters.

Sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina picked up the win for the Tide, pushing her record to 32-2, while Kylie Vry took the loss for the Bulldogs, falling to 9-8 on the season. Traina leads the nation in pitching victories. Traina gave up two runs on five hits and struck out eight in her seven innings of work.

Tide left fielder Kayla Braud had several outstanding defensive plays.

Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy said, "I thought it was an entertaining game. We had a lot of opportunities early that we didn't take advantage of, especially after we'd scored three runs and had the bases loaded with no outs." State got out of the jam with a pop-up and two strikeouts.

"It was a good game overall," Murphy said. Jackie pitched pretty well. Braud made a great play in the first inning that gave us momentum. Jennifer Fenton was awesome, three-for-three." Fenton also stole three bases bringing her season total to 38, best in the SEC.

Alabama improved to 48-7 while Mississippi State fell to 33-22 . The win was the 27th consecutive victory for the Crimson Tide over the Bulldogs and the 13th consecutive tournament-opening victory as Bama improved to 30-19 overall in the event.

Alabama got rolling in the bottom of the third inning. Braud reached on an error and advanced to second base. Fenton beat out a bunt with Braud moving to third. Amanda Locke scored Braud with an infield single. Hunt drove in two runs with a single up the middle. The bad news was that Alabama loaded the bases but go no more runs.

In the fourth inning, Braud led off with a perfectly placed bunt and advanced to third on a Fenton single. Braud was able to score on a Hunt sacrifice fly, her 60th RBI of the year. Hunt became just the sixth Alabama player to ever reach 60 RBI in a season. Senior Cassie Reilly-Boccia hit a bloop single over the first baseman's head to score Fenton and make it 5-0 Alabama.

After MSU scored twice in the top of the sixth inning, Traina retired the last five Bulldog batters to shut the door on the Bulldogs.

The game marked the return to Rhoads Stadium for former Crimson Tide Assistant Vann Stuedeman, now in her first year as head coach at Mississippi State, and for former Bama pitching star Kelsi Dunne, a student assistant for the Bulldogs.

Stuedeman said she came to the park early and received a warm reception from Alabama fans. "They said they missed me and that I have done a great job. It felt nice to be welcomed back by such great folks. I know that Alabama fans will be cheering for us in the NCAA Tournament."

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