Alabama Softball Splits With Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. – Both fifth-ranked Alabama and eighth-ranked Georgia fashioned comeback victories in Saturday’s doubleheader, with the Crimson Tide taking game one, 7-4, in extra innings while the Bulldogs rallied to win game two, 7-6, on a walk-off RBI single.

Alabama (19-3, 4-0 SEC) rallied to win game one, overcoming a 4-3 deficit in the seventh inning to tie the game and eventually earn the win in extra innings. Georgia (23-4, 2-2 SEC) followed a similar script in the second game, chipping away at the Crimson Tide’s lead before finally breaking through in the seventh inning to win in walk-off fashion.

Between the two games, sophomore Marisa Runyon went 5-8 including two doubles and a home run. Freshman Demi Turner went 4-9 out of the two-hole including her go-ahead home run in extra innings in game one.

GAME ONE: ALABAMA 7, GEORGIA 4 (9 INNINGS)

Trailing 4-3 in the top of the seventh inning, Alabama would go on to score four unanswered runs, taking the 7-4 comeback victory in extra innings over Georgia to open the weekend series.

The late comeback was led by freshman Turner with a pair of clutch late at-bats to tie it in the seventh inning and take a lead in the top of the ninth. Danae Hays went 3-4 from the plate, finishing a home run shy of the cycle, while Leona Lafaele drove in two runs on a two-run homer in the fourth inning. After giving up a solo homer in the top of the fourth, starter Alexis Osorio (7-2) would go on to retire 18 straight batters to close out the complete game victory, striking out eight with zero walks.

Georgia held the Tide at bay for the majority of regulation, but starter Chelsea Wilkinson (13-4) was tagged for some late runs as she took the loss in the complete game effort. Paige Wilson led the offense with a 2-4 performance including a solo home run.

With two in scoring position in the bottom of the first, Georgia’s Alex Hugo battled through a lengthy at-bat and launched a high fly ball to center field, just missing a home run as Haylie McCleney caught it on the warning track. The ball was deep enough to allow the runner at third to tag up and score on the sacrifice fly. Demi Turner made a great diving catch in the infield to end the inning and limit the damage to just one run.

Chandler Dare led off the top of the third with a double and advanced to third base on a fly ball by McCleney. Turner followed with a slow grounder to the shortstop as they tried to throw Dare out at home but she slid under the tag to tie it at 1-1 while Turner was safe at first base on the fielder’s choice RBI. Turner stole second but was later caught trying to steal third to end the half-inning with the score tied at 1-1.

Georgia retook the lead in the bottom of the third, as Paige Wilson pulled an RBI single through the right side to score one and make it 2-1. Hugo followed that with a high fly ball to center field, earning her second sacrifice fly of the day to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 3-1.

In the top of the fourth, Danae Hays reached on a one-out double and Leona Lafaele cleared the bases with a line drive homer to left field, tying the game at 3-3. Georgia immediately answered in the bottom half, as Anna Swafford led of the half-inning with a towering solo homer run to give the Bulldogs a 4-3 lead.

Osorio would retire nine straight Bulldogs following the solo home run as the score remained the same heading to the top of the seventh. Lafaele was hit by the first pitch of the inning as Andrea Hawkins entered to pinch run for her at first. Hawkins was sacrificed into scoring position by Kallie Case in the next at-bat and Hawkins made it to third on a groundout, putting the potential tying run 60 feet away with two out. McCleney was intentionally walked and immediately stole second base to put two in scoring position. Turner hit a rocket single down the third base line as Wilson was able to knock it down but was unable to get an out on the play as Hawkins crossed the plate to tie it up at 4-4.

Osorio made it 12 straight batters retired as she sat down the Bulldogs in order in the seventh, forcing extra innings. Runyon led off the half-inning with a double and Hays followed that with a single to right field, though Sydni Emanuel was able to get the ball quickly, holding Runyon at third. Lafaele hit a slow roller back to the pitcher and Runyon was caught in a rundown between third and home for the second out of the inning and a fly ball in foul territory went for out number three as the Tide couldn’t take the lead in the top of the eighth.

With two outs in the top of the ninth, Turner muscled two-out solo homer into right field to give the Tide a 5-4 lead and Jadyn Spencer followed that with another solo homer to center field, stretching the lead to 6-4. Hays put another run on the board with an RBI triple as the Tide took a 7-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth.

Osorio made it 18 straight batters retired as she sat down Georgia in order in the bottom of the ninth to secure the extra-inning comeback victory for Alabama.

GAME TWO: GEORGIA 7, ALABAMA 6

Georgia fashioned its own comeback victory in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, scoring three late runs to defeat Alabama, 7-6, and even the series at 1-1.

The Crimson Tide jumped out to a 6-2 lead before the Bulldogs would come back with five unanaswered runs over the final four innings to earn the victory. McCleney and Turner went a combined 4-8 leading off the batting order while Runyon went 2-3 with a pair of RBI on a two-run homer. Tide starter Leslie Jury took a no-decision in the circle, throwing 4.1 innings while sophomore Sydney Littlejohn (8-1) suffered the loss in relief, her first of the season.

Georgia starter Brittany Gray (10-0) earned the complete game victory and the team overcame a trio of costly early errors to come back over the second half of the game. Sydni Emanuel and Paige Wilson combined to go 4-6 with three runs scored.

With Case at third and two outs in the top of the third, the Georgia second baseman mishandled a ground ball that allowed Case to score and give Alabama the 1-0 lead. Georgia went hitless until the fourth inning, when Sydni Emmanuel led off the inning with a single. A hit-by-pitch and a bunt single would quickly load the bases for the Bulldogs with nobody out. Back-to-back strikeouts put two outs on the board but a passed ball and a throwing error allowed two to cross the plate and give Georgia a 2-1 lead. A strikeout ended the inning though the home team was now on top.

A pair of errors by the Bulldog defense put two Tide baserunners on to lead off the fifth inning and a double by McCleney and a single by Turner drove them in, giving the Tide the 3-2 lead. A wild pitch scored McCleney from third and advanced Turner to second, though she was caught in a rundown in the next at-bat for out number one. With a runner on base, Marisa Runyon launched a line drive homer into right center to stretch the lead to 6-2.

With two on in the bottom of the fifth, Sydni Emanuel hit an RBI double up the middle as Katie Collins just slid around the tag attempt at home by Chaunsey Bell. A wild pitch allowed another Bulldog runner to score in the next at-bat and Paige Wilson would reach on a bunt single as she was trying to score the runner from third on the squeeze. That ended Jury’s outing in the circle as Littlejohn entered in relief with Alex Hugo up to the plate. Hugo reached on a fielder’s choice but a weak popup ended the inning as the Tide’s lead was cut to 6-4 through five innings.

Georgia’s Kaylee Puailoa entered to pinch hit with two away in the bottom of the sixth and launched a solo home run to right field, cutting Alabama’s lead to 6-5. The Tide couldn’t tack on any insurance in the top of the seventh and after a leadoff bunt single in the bottom of the seventh, game one winner Alexis Osorio entered in the save situation. A walk and a bunt single loaded the bases as Littlejohn reentered the game. Hugo hit a high fly ball to right field, allowing one to score on the sacrifice fly to tie the game at 6-6. A walk-off RBI single by Anna Swafford sealed the comeback win for Georgia, as the Bulldogs won, 7-6.

The series finale is set for a 1 p.m. CT start on Sunday, March 15 in Athens, Ga. The game will be broadcast live on the SEC Network with Sam Gore and Jessica Mendoza on the call.

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