Led by a freshman pitcher and a junior All-American outfielder, Alabama came through with a 5-1 victory in the evening contest.
In the finale, freshman hurler Alexis Osorio (10-3) found the weight on her young shoulders when it came to salvaging one game in the series. She responded by going the full seven innings, walking one, striking out seven and allowing an unearned run in 124 pitches before a paid crowd of 3.244.
“’Lexi’ (Osorio) did an awesome job. It might have saved the season, really. I mean, we needed a win,” said Tide Coach Patrick Murphy, who feels some of his hitters are thinking too much and getting bad results at the plate. “There’s just way too many socks in the top drawer of some of our people. You can see it. It’s frustrating.” Before breaking through for five runs in their final two at bats, Alabama had no earned runs in 18 innings of the series.
Added Haylie McCleney, who delivered a homer and a bases-clearing triple to break the game open: “We have to keep sticking with it. It’s a process, like Coach (Nick) Saban says. “We’re going to keep getting better.”
Alabama missed a golden opportunity early in the finale. Senior Designated Player Danielle Richard led off the bottom of the first with a walk. Demi Turner sacrificed Richard to second, and normal leadoff hitter Haylie McCleney, batting third, drew a walk. McCleney’s Mortimer Jordan High School teammate Danae Hays then walked after both base runners advanced 90 feet on a wild pitch by Gators starter Delanie Gourley. That brought up junior first baseman Leona Lafaele, who fell behind in the count 0-2. After working the count full, Lafaele fouled off two pitches before being called out on strikes by home plate umpire Bubba Ewald. With two out and the sacks full, Jadyn Spencer grounded softly to the pitcher to end the threat.
Florida scored first on an Osorio wild pitch in the top of inning two. The freshman then induced a pair of strikeouts swinging to avoid further damage.
Junior left fielder Andrea Hawkins slapped a single up the middle to open the Tide second. Senior catcher Chauncey Bell was retired on a soft fly to third. Kallie Case then reached on a bunt single to give Alabama two on with one out. Richard went down swinging before Turner popped out to second. After two, the Tide already had left five on base.
McCleney opened the third with an infield hit. Hays popped out to short center, Lafaele flew to short right for out number two, and Spencer went down swinging.
Richard drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch to open the Tide fifth, and Turner sacrificed her to second. McCleney then blasted Gourley’s first offering over the wall in right center for a 2-1 Tide lead. The shot was the first four-bagger of the season for McCleney. “The momentum shifted. You could see it, and you could feel it,” she said. “We didn’t want to get swept, especially at home against the best fans in the country.”
With two down in the Tide sixth, Case drew a walk. Richard singled to right, and Case took third. With Turner at bat, Case scored on a wild pitch by Gourley to extend the Tide’s lead. Richard took second on the play. Turner walked, and McCleney waited as Gators Coach Tim Walton brought in reliever Aleshia Ocasio. McCleney then tripled to left center driving in a pair, and single-handedly getting the “Left On Base Monkey” off the Tide’s back. Alabama took a 5-1 lead to the seventh, and Osorio, who seemed to get stronger as the game got longer, retired the Gators in order to close the deal.
GAME TWO RESUMED earlier Monday with Florida down 1-0, a runner on third and no outs. From there, it was all downhill for Alabama. After a sac fly, a passed ball, a hit batter, timely hitting and an untimely (for UA ) walk, the Gators put a four spot on the board and headed to the home half of the fifth up 4-1.
The Tide went quietly in its half of the fifth. In the home sixth, McCleney drew a one out walk, but was quickly erased on a fielder’s choice. In the bottom of the seventh, Richard drew a leadoff walk. Lafaele popped out to first, pinch-hitter Marisa Runyon struck out swinging, and Chandler Dare popped to second to end the contest, a 4-1 Florida win.
McCleney is now 6-for-9 with four RBI’s when batting third. It’s a change Tide fans may want to get used to. Up next for Alabama is a 2:00 p.m. CT home game against Georgia Tech. The next SEC series will see Texas A&M visit Friday through Sunday.