Alabama Softball Romps To Title

Alabama will learn its NCAA destination Sunday, which will be the Crimson Tide softball team's second celebration in two days and third in just over a week. Bama completed the Southeastern Conference sweep Saturday with a dominating performance.

The top seeded Alabama softball team jumped out to an early lead and never looked back en route to a 10-1, run-rule victory over the Florida Gators in the SEC Tournament Championship Game. The SEC tournament title was the fifth for the Crimson Tide, putting them into a tie with LSU for most overall.

Six days earlier on the same Rhoads Stadium field, Bama had defeated Florida to win the SEC regular season championship. It was the second time Bama has won the regular season title and the tournament championship in the same season. Alabama also accomplished the feat in 2010.

With the win, Alabama improved to 50-7 on the year. It was the first time that the SEC Tournament title was decided by run rule and won by the host team.

Alabama also dominated the all-tournament team. Crimson Tide pitcher Jackie Traina, who won the first two games of the tournament, was selected MVP. She was joined on the squad by Kaila Braud, Jennifer Fenton, and Kaila Hunt.

The weekend set a three-day attendance record for the SEC Tournament, with 10,044 fans attending the games at Rhoads Stadium.

"The fans have supported us like none other," Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy said. "My vote is to leave the tournament here every single year, if I have a vote. I thought that yesterday was awesome, but today was even better and even more fun. It's the 40th anniversary of Title IX, so to have this type of crowd and this type of media presence for women's softball is just incredible in my mind."

There is not a great deal of drama about NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday. The Crimson Tide, ranked third in the nation in one poll and fourth in another, will be a top seed for the tournament. Alabama will wait for Selection Sunday tomorrow to find out its NCAA opponents. The field of 64 will be announced on ESPNU at 9.m. CDT.

"I couldn't be prouder of our team," Murphy said. "Those seniors, Kendall Dawson, Jennifer Fenton, Cassie Reilly-Boccia, Jazlyn Lunceford, Olivia Gibson, and Amanda Locke, they went out and did it today. It was just a great team win."

Senior Amanda Locke threw five innings of three-hit ball for Alabama, giving up just the one unearned run to improve to 4-1 on the year. Florida pitcher Lauren Haeger gave up eight runs on six hits to fall to 14-5.

Alabama cranked out eight hits on the day, including three hits and four runs batted in by sophomore Kaila Hunt. Hunt finished the tournament with seven runs batted in.

Alabama jumped out on top in the first inning. Junior Kayla Braud led off with a walk and advanced to second on senior Jennifer Fenton's slap single up the middle. Both came around to score when Hunt hit a triple into the gap in right field to give Alabama a 2-0 lead. The two first inning runs bring Alabama's total to 99 in the opening frame.

After giving up a run in the top of the second inning to cut into the lead, Alabama went back to work in the bottom of the third inning. Braud led off with a walk and stole second, her 36th stolen base on the year. She came around to score on a Hunt single, making the lead, 3-1. After Locke hit a single, senior Jazlyn Lunceford hit a three-run blast to the scoreboard to put Alabama up 6-1. Junior Courtney Conley then drew a walk, setting the stage for senior Kendall Dawson, to hit a two-run home run that extended the lead to 8-1.

Alabama kept up the offense in the bottom of the fourth inning. Hunt hit another RBI single to extend the lead to 9-1, and senior Cassie Reilly-Boccia followed up with a RBI single of her own to make it 10-1.

Florida (46-11) loaded the bases in the top of the fifth with two outs, but Locke was able to induce a fly out to end the game.

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