Locke Pitches Tide To Opening Win

There is no question that Jackie Traina is the ace of the Alabama softball pitching staff, but there is more than once ace in a deck. Amanda Locke has been big in the last two Crimson Tide outings, a win over Florida to win the Southeastern Conference Tournament championship and on Friday night a complete game victory in the first game of the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional.

Locke went the distance as the second-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide opened the regional with a 5-1 win over Tennessee Martin at Rhoads Stadium.

Saturday play in the double elimination tournament will begin at 1 p.m. CDT with the Crimson Tide taking on South Alabama in the winner's bracket. UT Martin faces Georgia Tech in an elimination game Saturday at 3:30 p.m. South Alabama scored two runs in the seventh inning to defeat Tech, 4-3 Friday afternoon.

Alabama is now 51-7.

Locke, a senior, improved her record to 5-1. She allowed one run on three hits in seven complete innings. The right-hander struck out a season high seven batters and walked two.

Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy said, "At the beginning of the year when we had all of those tournaments and had five games in a weekend, Leslie Jury and Lauren Sewell and Locke pitched heavily in one and Jackie Traina did not pitch much. We were giving up two or three runs a game and I said that I will take that any day. I will take you guys giving up the three runs a game because I think that we will score four. I think that tonight is a good example of that. She gave up the homerun on a good hit, full count, she threw a strike and the kid hit it. One run, I will take that."

Bama banged out 11 hits with Jennifer Fenton leading the way with a 3-4 night. Senior Cassie Reilly-Boccia and freshman Danae Hays collected two hits each. Hays had a home run for the Tide. Sophomore Kaila Hunt had two runs batted in.

Murphy said, "Baseball and softball are games where the law of averages are sometimes with you and sometimes against you. Tonight we had 11 hits and five runs, and then some nights you will have five hits and 11 runs. I thought that we did a pretty good job offensively. We just sometimes didn't get the key hit with the runner in scoring position or to continue the inning."

Alabama got on the board early, scoring two runs before recording an out. After back-to-back singles by junior Kayla Braud and Fenton and then a double steal, Hunt drilled a line drive up the middle to give the Tide an early 2-0 lead. UA increased its first inning lead to 3-0 when Reilly-Boccia ripped a single up the middle to plate Hunt.

Hays led off the second inning with a home run to increase the Alabama lead to 4-0. The home run was her fifth on the season.

After UT Martin's Erica Duke hit a home run to close the score to 4-1 in the fifth inning, Alabama got the run back when Fenton lined a single through the left side to plate pinch-hitter Jadyn Spencer for the final 5-1 margin.

The win is the 17th in a row for the Tide in regional play. Bama is now 36-9 in NCAA first round regional games. The two RBI by Hunt moved her season total to 66 on the season which puts her fourth all-time in the Alabama single season annals.

A third game Saturday at approximately 6 p.m. will pit the loser of the Bama-South Alabama game against the winner of the UT Martin-Georgia Tech contest in an elimination contest.

On Sunday, the championship game is set for 1 p.m. If necessary, a second game will follow at 3:30 p.m.

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