Alabama Softball Wins Regional

Alabama Softball Coach Patrick Murphy said he wanted to see his team peak at the right time. After a regular season and Southeastern Conference Tournament of more valleys than peaks, the Crimson Tide came alive Sunday and romped out of the Tuscaloosa Regional and into the Super Regional, the next stop before the Women's College World Series.

Alabama earned its ninth consecutive NCAA regional title and 11th overall as it raced past Western Kentucky, 13-1, Sunday at Rhoads Stadium.

Alabama (45-13) knows it is in the Super Regional next weekend, but doesn't know where or against whom. Tennessee, the higher seeded NCAA team and host of the Knoxville Regional which paired with Tuscaloosa, will get the Super Regional if the Vols win the regional. Tennessee and North Carolina State were in a long weather delay Sunday.

There were no problems with weather and very little trouble with Western Kentucky Sunday as Bama finished the Tuscaloosa Regional undefeated.

Crimson Tide junior pitcher Jackie Traina (19-6) was dominant, allowing just one hit and striking out two in four innings. Alabama scored its 13 runs on 15 hits, including a grand slam home run by Kaila Hunt. Bama improved its record in regional action to 41-9.

Murphy congratulated Western Kentucky, but saved most of his praise for his own team. "We always say we are going to save the best for last and peak at the right time and today was probably the best we have played all year," Murphy said. "Our defense was very good and we had 15 hits, so I am a happy coach."

Bama speed was tough on the Lady Toppers (43-18) as senior Kayla Braud, and the freshman tandem of Haylie McCleney and Andrea Hawkins recorded three hits apiece. Braud had eight hits in the three games of the tournament and extended her hitting streak to 23 games.

Small ball continued to work for Alabama as the Tide manufactured a run to open the game in the first. After back-to-back infield singles by Braud and McCleney, Hunt put down a sac-bunt that set up a Molly Fichtner sac-fly to left-center that easily scored Braud from third.

Alabama opened the floodgates in the second inning, scoring six runs to take a 7-0 lead. Sophomore Danielle Richard led off the inning with a solo home run and then after a Courtney Conley run on a passed ball, Hunt smashed a grand slam for her 15th home run on the season.

Alabama wrapped up its scoring with three more runs in the fifth. McCleney ripped a two-run single up the middle and then Fichtner drove in her third run on the day on a groundout to short. In her final at-bat at Rhoads Stadium senior Jackey Branham ripped an RBI double off the wall in left-center to give the Tide a 13-0 lead.

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