“After last night’s game as a joking comment, we told Sydney that the pressure was on Sunday after the other pitching performances this weekend,” said Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy. “As it turned out, she had the best performance of the weekend! Similar to what Leslie Jury did Saturday, any misses by Sydney were really close. Missing that close really forces the hitter to make a decision and puts a lot of pressure on them.”
Littlejohn (8-0) is the only player in Alabama (18-4, 3-0 SEC) history to throw two perfect games, both of which have come this season. It is just the third in school history, as current pitching coach Stephanie VanBrakle threw the first on April 1, 2006 at Kentucky and Littlejohn threw the second earlier this season in Gulf Shores against Eastern Kentucky at the Sand Dollar Classic. Sunday’s perfect game also marks the first thrown by Alabama at Rhoads Stadium.
“With the other pitcher’s throwing well this weekend, it sort of raises the standard,” said Littlejohn. “It was something I wanted to do not just for me but for the team as well. The other two pitchers did well and I want the team to know they can depend on me too. As a pitching staff, this whole weekend was a huge accomplishment.”
The Tide pitching staff finished the weekend with three shutouts, allowing just eight hits over 19 innings with 25 strikeouts. Alabama’s 10-0 win in five innings over Ole Miss (13-8, 0-3 SEC) on Sunday completed the series sweep for Alabama.
Offensively for the Tide, Danae Hays and Chaunsey Bell were both 2-2 on Sunday with a combined five RBI while Marisa Runyon also drove in a pair on a first-inning double. Five of the Tide’s 10 runs were unearned, as some early errors by the Ole Miss defense hurt starter Madi Osias’ (2-5) effort. She left after just 1 2/3 innings.
Quality defense rounded out the perfect game for Alabama, especially with some late defensive replacements in Chandler Dare and Kallie Case making crucial plays in the seventh inning to secure the perfect game.
“Our saying in the dugout is that the new girl always gets the ball,” said Murphy. “Kallie was in as a defensive replacement and had to make a great play right away. We always want our players to take advantage of their opportunities and a good player will do that. The plays today and this weekend say a lot about girls like Kallie, Chandler and Andrea Hawkins and their preparation in practice. They’re not just going through the motions. They’re really paying attention to detail.”
As was the case in each of the weekend’s previous two games, Alabama got off to a hot start in the first inning. With two on and one away, Runyon roped a double down the right field line to score two and she was later brought home on an RBI single by Leona Lafaele to make it 3-0. Later in the inning, Bell tacked on two more with a single through the left side to make it 5-0. A strikeout finally ended the big inning as the Tide batted around the order in the first.
Alabama matched its first-inning output in the second inning, as a handful of costly errors by the Rebels defense allowed the Tide to score five unearned runs. With the bases loaded and two away, a fielding error allowed two to score and put two in scoring position to make it 7-0. A single by Hays and a double by Bell added three more to the scoreboard, making it 10-0 to end Osias’ outing. Saturday starter Lauren Lindsay entered in relief and forced a flyout to stop the bleeding as the Tide led by double digits after just two innings.
Littlejohn struck out the first six batters she faced and it was up to the defense to make the remaining 15 plays, as she threw just 65 pitches in the winning effort to close out the perfect game and the series sweep.
Next up, Alabama will host UAB (17-5) in a midweek contest at Rhoads Stadium on Tuesday with first pitch set for 6 p.m. CDT. Following that, the Tide will head to Athens, Ga., for a three-game series against the Georgia Bulldogs (21-2) starting on Friday.