Alabama Softball Takes Rubber Game

After a late rally fell short in Saturday’s second game, Alabama redeemed itself in Sunday’s rubber match against Louisiana at Rhoads Stadium. The Crimson Tide had to overcome a game-tying homer in the top of the seventh to take a 3-2 win in the bottom half of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Haylie McCleney.

“I had no doubt that Haylie was going to get it done today,” said Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy. “I thought she was going to get it done last night in the final at-bat, but sometimes things like that happen.

Haylie McCleney battled through a 10 pitch at-bat before sending a line drive into right field, allowing pinch runner Andrea Hawkins to tag up and score from third base on the sacrifice fly.

“As the at-bat progressed, I though she got more comfortable and I just felt she was going to get it done. Andrea did a great job running too. Most people would have taken off immediately but their outfield was pulled in so Andrea did exactly what she needed to do by waiting, tagging and scoring.”

Alabama (15-4) saw a slim lead erased twice by Louisiana (15-2) in each of the final two innings, but the Tide answered every Cajun run with a run of their own in the bottom half of the innings. Tide starter Leslie Jury pitched a strong five innings in the start, allowing just one run on five hits with seven strikeouts, but was pulled in the top of the sixth with a pair of runners on. Sydney Littlejohn (7-0) was looking for a save but ultimately ended up earning the win, allowing just the one run in the seventh inning before the comeback in the bottom half.

Louisiana starter Jordan Wallace (6-1) went 6 2/3 innings in the loss with six hits allowed and three runs, two earned, credited to her. The loss is her first of the season as she had allowed only three runs over 46 innings prior to Sunday’s game.

The teams were scoreless until the bottom of the third inning, as a leadoff bunt single, stolen base and wild pitch advanced Chandler Dare all the way to third base and a high fly ball from Demi Turner drove her in on the sacrifice fly, making it 1-0 Alabama.

Louisiana didn’t threaten Alabama’s lead until the top of the sixth, as they led off the inning with back-to-back singles to end Jury’s outing with Littlejohn entering in the save situation. She struck out the first batter, but a walk and a groundout allowed one to cross the plate and tie the game, 1-1.

Turner led off the bottom of the sixth for the Tide with a single and Danielle Richard sacrificed her over to second but was safe after the Louisiana first baseman dropped the ball, allowing Turner to advance and put runners at the corners with nobody out. Jadyn Spencer grounded into a fielder’s choice, driving in Turner from third and she advanced to second on a high throw out of bounds from the Cajun second baseman trying to complete the double play. A Danae Hays single put runners at the corners again but the Tide couldn’t add to its lead as they entered the seventh inning leading by one.

Down to its final out in the top of the seventh, Louisiana’s Shellie Landry came through with the big hit for the Cajuns, launching a line-drive homer to left field to tie the game at 2-2. After a two-out single, Littlejohn bounced back to strike out the final batter of the half-inning.

Leona Lafaele led off the bottom of the seventh with a double to the right-field gap as Hawkins entered to pinch run. Dare moved her up 60 feet with a sacrifice bunt before McCleney found herself up to bat with the potential game-winning run in scoring position for the second straight game. After battling to a full count and fouling off four straight pitches, she pulled the 10th pitch of the at-bat hard into right field. Louisiana outfielder Aleah Craighton made a great diving catch on the play, but Hawkins was ready at third, tagging up and breaking from home to give Alabama the walk-off victory and the series win.

Next weekend, Alabama opens SEC play with a three-game series against the Ole Miss Rebels (12-5) at Rhoads Stadium. Game one is set for a 6:30 p.m. CT first pitch on Friday, March 6. The series will continue on Saturday, March 7 at 2 p.m. and will conclude on Sunday, March 8 at 1:30 p.m.

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