Alabama All-America Haylie McCleney tied an Bama softball record Friday night at Rhoads Stadium, but most on the Crimson Tide side probably wish she had not. Trailing by a run with two outs in the seventh inning, Bama had runners at second and third and McCleney at the plate.
McCleney is an outstanding hitter, but she didn’t have a chance to drive in the tying and/or winning run as she earned a walk, which equaled the Crimson Tide career record of 180 held by Cassie Reilly-Boccia.
But fourth-ranked Alabama left the bases loaded as No. 11 Kentucky took a 3-2 Southeastern Conference win in the series opener.
Alabama fell to 39-9 overall and 10-6 in SEC games, while Kentucky is also 39-9 and is 14-5 in the conference.
The series continues Saturday, with game two set for a 5 p.m. CDT start. The SEC Network will televise the game.
Reagan Dykes accounted for the entire run output for the Tide, blasting a two-run home run in the fourth inning, her team-leading 10th long ball of the season.
Sydney Littlejohn (18-4) pitched five innings in losing for the first time this year in SEC games. Alexis Osorio threw two perfect innings with four strikeouts in relief. Kentucky’s Kelsey Nunley (18-4) earned the win in the start, lasting 6 2/3 innings before Meagan Prince entered in the bottom of the seventh to secure the final out for her second save of the season.
“I think just another hit or two at any point in the game could have made the difference,” Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy said. “We hit the ball hard; they just made every play on defense. We did a lot of things right but we just didn’t win the game. It was a well-played game. Kentucky is a great team.”
Alabama fell behind early to Kentucky before rallying back to tie it in the fourth inning. The Wildcats moved ahead by one on an RBI double in the fifth inning, which ultimately proved final as the Tide failed to capitalize on the bases-loaded opportunity in the bottom of the seventh.
Kentucky had taken a 2-0 lead in the third inning on a two-run home run by Nikki Sagermann. Bama tied it in the bottom of the fourth on Dykes’ two-run homer.
With one out in the top of the fifth, a fielding error put the go-ahead run on base and, following a single and a strikeout, an RBI double by Katie Reed that fell just past the outstretched glove of a running Chandler Dare plated the run to give Kentucky a 3-2 lead.
Trailing by one in the bottom of the seventh with two outs, Peyton Grantham drew a walk and Kallie Case followed with a hard-hit single to second. Both runners were able to advance into scoring position on a throwing error on the play, before McCleney drew a walk to load the bases. A groundout to second ended the game.