Alabama (42-11) and Georgia (40-14) were locked in a pitchers' duel for the majority of the game. Crimson Tide starter Alexis Osorio (17-7) had a dominant outing, allowing just one unearned run on two hits with 12 strikeouts against one of the SEC’s top power-hitting offenses. Marisa Runyon drove in both of the Tide’s runs, hitting a first inning sacrifice fly and a timely sixth-inning RBI single that drove in the winning run.
Alabama now has won 16 straight opening games at the SEC Tournament, stretching back to 2000.
Georgia starter Brittany Gray (14-6) pitched a strong complete game with just two runs allowed on three hits but the offense could not back her up, as they would only get a runner on base three times in the game. Georgia’s lone run of the game scored on a fourth inning fielding error.
Alabama manufactured its way to an early lead in the bottom of the first as Demi Turner and Haylie McCleney were both sacrificed into scoring position by Jadyn Spencer and then moved up another 60 feet on a sacrifice fly by Runyon to make it 1-0. With a runner on second and one out in the top of the fourth, Georgia’s Alex Hugo beat out an infield single but an errant throw on the play allowed the runner to score from third, tying the game at 1-1. Back-to-back strikeouts ended the half-inning and limited the damage with the score now tied at the halfway point of regulation.
The pitchers' duel would continue until the bottom of the sixth, as McCleney drew a leadoff walk and was then sacrificed into scoring position, putting the potential go-ahead run at second. Runyon battled to a full count and blasted a hard single up the middle as Hugo knocked it down but could not prevent McCleney from scoring as the Tide pulled ahead, 2-1.
In the top of the seventh, Hugo drew a leadoff walk, stole second, and was sacrificed to third with two outs. Paige Wilson fouled off back-to-back pitches with a two-strike count but reached out of the zone to go down swinging for the final out as Alabama hung on to win, 2-1.
With the win, Alabama advances to Friday’s semifinal round where the Tide will play second-seeded Auburn (47-9) at 2 p.m. CDT live on ESPNU.
Here are post-game comments from Bama Coach Patrick Murphy, pitcher Alexis Osorio, and Marisa Runyon: Opening statement from Patrick Murphy:
“I thought Lexi (Alexis Osorio) was awesome. Every time they swing, we hold our breath. Pitching a two-hitter with 12 strikeouts, that doesn’t happen very often against them. The three keys in postseason softball: defense, starting pitching and key hits. (Marisa) Runyon got the key hit when we needed it the most.”,
On the level of competition at the SEC Tournament:
“I think I said this last week at a press conference at Alabama where I thought this was going to be like a mini College World Series. It’s the toughest 12-team tournament in the country especially being single elimination. If you don’t play well, you’re going to get beat. I thought both teams played well today; we just got the key hit. This is my 19th year in the SEC, and from top to bottom, it has been unbelievable this year. The parity is here to stay. The facilities, the coaches, and the athletes have improved every year that I’ve been here at Alabama without a doubt.”
On how the team will prepare for its game against Auburn Friday:
“We know they’re a really good hitting team as well, and Georgia prepared us probably as well as anybody could. We had three really good games against them down in Auburn a couple of weeks ago.
"Earlier in the tournament, the ball was flying out of the park. Then with us, the wind kind of went the other way. I thought we would maybe have at least a warning track out. I don’t know what it’s going to be tomorrow, but it’ll be a hell of a matchup again.”
Alabama Freshman Alexis Osorio:
On the Georgia game:
“I think it was a great game overall. My team had my back when I needed it the most. I was going after the batters, and it was just a great game overall.”
On taking on Auburn Friday:
“It’s just going to be a great game tomorrow. We played them in a series earlier this year, and it’s just going to be whoever comes out tomorrow.”
Alabama Sophomore Marisa Runyon:
On her team’s performance against Georgia:
“It was a great game. Lex (Alexis Osorio) pitched a wonderful game. It’s not often that you go up against a Georgia team that swings out of their pants. Lex did very very well, and it was fun game to play in.”
On Friday’s semifinal matchup with Auburn:
“I’m excited. It’s an in-state rivalry. We played them a couple of weeks ago, and you could literally flip a coin with who is going to win and who is going to win in the SEC in general. It should be fun. They’re a great hitting team, and they have great pitchers. It’s going to come down to who shows up tomorrow with great defense and timely hits.”