No one expected Alabama’s softball team to go undefeated this year, and the Crimson Tide of Coach Patrick Murphy ran its winning streak to six in season-openers on Friday in Orlando. But the winning streak to start 2016 ended at one.
Fifth-ranked Alabama split its opening games, defeating Fordham 9-1 to start the day, but falling to tournament host and 17th-ranked Central Florida, 8-1, in the nightcamp.
Alabama will play a pair of games on Saturday, opening against Rutgers (0-2) at 11 a.m. CST before facing No. 19 James Madison (2-0) at 3:30 p.m.
Alabama (1-1) put together an impressive display to open the day against Fordham (0-1) but struggled against solid pitching and hitting by UCF (3-0). Haylie McCleney and Leona Lafaele led the Crimson Tide offense each going 3-6 with a pair of RBIs. Demi Turner had three hits in seven at-bats with a pair of RBI while Chandler Dare went 2-5.
Here is the UofA Media Relations report on the games:
ALABAMA 9, FORDHAM 1 (5 INNINGS)
Alabama (1-0) has now won six-straight season opening games, stretching all the way back to 2011. The Tide led the entire game and, after a slow start, used a five-run fifth inning to secure the run-rule victory. Offensively, McCleney, Turner and Lafaele all tallied multi-hit games at the plate with the three combining for five of the team’s six RBIs. Freshman Madi Moore (1-0) earned the win in the circle in her collegiate debut, going the full 5.0 innings with just one unearned run allowed on four hits with a pair of strikeouts.
Fordham (0-2) starter Lauren Quense (0-1) took the loss in the circle, exiting after 4.2 innings with seven runs, three earned, on eight hits allowed.
With the bases loaded and one out in the top of the first, McCleney was out at home on the force out but Turner made a heads-up play on the throw to first, rounding third to score and put the Tide up 1-0. A passed ball in the next at-bat allowed Reagan Dykes to score and make it 2-0 before a groundout ended the half-inning.
Fordham’s Sydney Canessa led off the bottom of the third inning with a double in the left-field gap, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on an errant pickoff attempt to cut the Tide’s lead in half, 2-1. A fly ball to Chandler Dare in right and a ground ball to Lafaele at first ended the inning as Alabama was able to hold onto its one-run lead.
With Lafaele at first and one out in the top of the fourth, Kallie Case roped the 2-2 pitch into right field and a strong wind pushed it out of reach of the Ram right fielder, giving Case an RBI triple to stretch the lead to 3-1. An infield single by McCleney to the shortstop scored Case to make it 4-1 as the Tide would stretch its lead to three at the halfway point of the game.
With runners at the corners and one out in the top of the fifth, a hard-hit single up the middle by Lafaele drove in one to make it 5-1. Later with two on and two out, Fordham made a change in the circle as third baseman Lindsay Mayer moved in to pitch. Back-to-back walks to Case and McCleney stretched the lead to 6-1 before a wild pitch and a two-run single by Turner stretched it to 9-1. Alabama secured the run-rule victory with a 1-2-3 bottom half of the fifth.
UCF 8, ALABAMA 1
Alabama’s momentum from game one did not carry over into Friday’s nightcap against tournament host and 17th-ranked UCF, as the Knights defeated the Tide, 8-1.
The Alabama offense couldn’t gain any momentum against UCF All-American pitcher Shelby Turnier (1-0), as she ended her complete-game effort with nine strikeouts and just one run allowed on three hits. Tide starter Sydney Littlejohn (0-1) took the loss in the complete game effort, credited with six earned runs on 11 hits. Alabama’s lone run in the game came on a sixth-inning RBI double by Lafaele, with Turner and Dare knocking in the Tide’s remaining two hits.
UCF got on the board first, as a soft single to right field by Jessica Ujvari with two in scoring position scored one, but the trailing runner was tagged out at home for out number one. A single through the left side by Cassady Brewer would score another to make it 2-0 but a fly ball and strikeout would limit the damage and end the inning.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the second, UCF looked to take a 3-0 lead on a sacrifice fly, however the umpires ruled after the play that the Knight batter had failed to properly re-enter following being pinch ran for in the previous inning and was called out as the runners returned to re-load the bases with two out. Courtney Rotton followed up the costly mistake with a two-run single up the middle to double the lead to 4-0 before a fly ball to McCleney would end the inning.
A string of defensive miscues by the Tide in the bottom of the fourth allowed the Knights to tack on three more runs to move ahead 7-0. Both teams went down in order in the fifth inning before Lafaele erased the shutout in the top of the sixth with a deep RBI double to the wall in right-center, scoring Marisa Runyon all the way from first base. Alabama couldn’t cut into the lead any further as UCF entered the bottom half of the inning with a six-run lead.
A one-out RBI single in the bottom of the sixth gave the Knights an insurance run and an 8-1 lead heading into the seventh but a late rally was not in the cards as the Knights held on to its seven-run lead to win and hand the Tide its first loss of the young 2016 season.