McCleney, Pitching Earn Bama A Split

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Alabama and Kentucky split two games in a Saturday doubleheader. The Wildcats edged the Tide, 2-1, in a game one pitchers’ duel. In the second game, Alabama battled to a 7-3 win courtesy of some late-game heroics by Haylie McCleney.

 

After a close loss in game one, Alabama (28-9, 9-5 SEC) won game two to split the Saturday doubleheader against Kentucky (25-10, 4-7 SEC). Bama’s pitchers combined to allow just five runs, four earned, over 13 innings as all three Tide pitchers saw action between the two games. Haylie McCleney went hitless in the opening game, but was 2-3 in the second game, including a huge three-run homer in the top of the seventh that gave Alabama the lead in the eventual 7-3 victory. Andrea Hawkins, Marisa Runyon, and Demi Turner also each earned a pair of hits between the two games.

  The series rubber game on Sunday is at 3:30 p.m. EDT (2:30 p.m. central time) and will be televised on the SEC Network.

GAME ONE: KENTUCKY 2, ALABMA 1

The opening game of Saturday’s doubleheader against Kentucky was a low-scoring pitchers’ duel, as the Wildcats edged out Alabama, 2-1.

  Alabama took the early lead on an RBI single by Marisa Runyon in the first inning, but a pair of runs in the fourth inning by Kentucky proved enough to give the Wildcats the narrow victory. Tide starter Alexis Osorio (11-5) took the tough-luck loss in the circle, allowing just the two runs, one of which was unearned, on two hits and three walks with five strikeouts.

Meagan Prince (10-4) threw 5.1 innings in the win for Kentucky, limiting Alabama to just one run on three hits, while Kelsey Nunley earned her fourth save of the season, getting the Wildcats out of the seventh inning jam.

With runners at the corners and two away in the top of the first, Runyon hit a grounder up the middle that just got under the glove of the running second baseman, scoring one on the RBI single to give Alabama the early 1-0 lead. The Wildcats would be held hitless until the bottom of the fourth, as Griffin Joiner led off the half-inning with a hard hit single into the left field gap and, after a popup, a fielding error and another single would load the bases with one away. A bases-loaded walk would tie it and a groundout to the right side would go for out number two but would allow a run to cross the plate, putting Kentucky up 2-1.

  In the top of the eighth, McCleney would draw a leadoff bunt and Danae Hays followed with a textbook sacrifice bunt to advance her into scoring position. After a quick visit to the circle, Kentucky made a pitching change as starting right fielder Erin Rethlake moved into the circle. A strikeout and a lineout would end the Tide half-inning as Kentucky was able to hold onto its one-run lead.

  The Wildcats were quickly sat down in order in the bottom of the sixth, as Alabama was now down to its final three outs of regulation, trailing 2-1. Leona Lafaele would draw a leadoff walk in the seventh inning Nunley would enter to pitch in the save situation. After back-to-back strikeouts, a fielding error would keep the inning alive but a tough called strikeout would end it as the Wildcats held on for the one-run victory.

GAME TWO: ALABAMA 7, KENTUCKY 3

After falling in the opening game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Alabama battled Kentucky in a back-and-forth game two, as a three-run homer by Haylie McCleney in the seventh inning gave Alabama the lead in the eventual 7-3 victory. 

Alabama used all three of its pitchers in the victory, as Sydney Littlejohn (12-1) ended up as the winning pitcher as she was the pitcher of record before McCleney hit the clutch three-run homer in the top of the seventh inning to break the 3-3 tie. McCleney’s home run was one of three hit in the game for Alabama, which is tied for the most in a game this season for Alabama. Danae Hays hit the first long ball in the third inning before McCleney and Marisa Runyon launched a pair in the seventh inning. Andrea Hawkins also went 2-3 out of the nine hole, driving in a run and scoring once herself.

  Kelsey Nunley (11-6) took the loss in the circle for Kentucky, throwing 5.0 innings with five runs allowed on seven hits. Breanne Ray was 3-4 batting fifth while Maisie Steed drove in two of the Wildcats’ three runs, going 2-3 out of the two-hole.

  Kentucky would strike first, as Breanne Ray knocked a two-out RBI single up the middle with two outs in the bottom of the first. The Wildcats would strand a pair on base to end the inning, as Jury would record a strikeout to limit the damage to just one run.

With one away in the top of the second, Chaunsey Bell and Leona Lafaele hit back-to-back doubles to tie the game at 1-1. After a flyout, Hawkins knocked an RBI single up the middle, scoring Lafaele from second to give the Tide a 2-1 lead. Kentucky quickly retook the lead in the bottom half of the inning, as a two-run double by Maisie Steed made it 3-2 Wildcats.

  The lead didn’t last long, however, as Hays pulled a high fly ball down the left field line that clanked off the foul pole for a solo home run, tying the game at 3-3 in the top of the third. Lafaele nearly gave the Tide the lead with a home run of her own in the fourth inning, but the hard-hit ball hooked just foul. She would end up drawing a walk and advanced to second but a strikeout eventually ended the half-inning.  

After a two-out walk put two on base in the bottom of the fourth, Littlejohn entered to pitch in relief for Alabama. Another walk would load the bases but a slow grounder to Lafaele at first would end the half-inning as the Tide was able to prevent the Wildcats from taking the lead.

After back-to-back walks with two out in the top of the fifth for Alabama, Nunley reentered to pitch for Kentucky and struck out the Tide batter to keep the game tied at 3-3. The Wildcats started the bottom of the fifth inning with back-to-back singles as Jury reentered to pitch for the Tide. Jury struck out the first batter she faced in relief but, after a walk, Littlejohn reentered the game with the bases loaded and one away. A lineout to left field went for out number two and a great throw prevented the runner at third from tagging up and scoring. That proved invaluable as an infield popup ended the inning to get Alabama out of the bases-loaded jam to keep the score tied 3-3.

A hard-hit single by Hawkins and a bunt single by Demi Turner would quickly put two on base to lead off the top of the seventh for Alabama. That forced yet another pitching change for Kentucky, as Erin Rethlake moved into the circle. McCleney would then take the fourth pitch of her at-bat over the wall in left center as the huge three-run homer gave Alabama its first lead since the second inning, 6-3. After a groundout, Runyon added some insurance with a solo shot into right center, making it a 7-3 game. A fly ball would end the half-inning as Alabama took the four-run lead into the final half-inning of regulation.

Since Jury and Littlejohn had already exited and reentered the game once before, that forced Alexis Osorio to throw the seventh inning due to substitution rules. Kentucky would grab a one-out single but that was it in the bottom of the seventh as Osorio shut the Wildcats down to secure the 7-4 win.

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