Alabama third baseman Marisa Runyon could almost have been lost in the list of Crimson Tide stars as Bama opened a Southeastern Conference softball series at South Carolina Friday night. Runyon had a single that drove in what proved to be the winning run in the second inning, and then made a stellar play of a hard-hit ball to save a couple of runs as Alabama defeated the Gamecocks, 3-1, at Beckham Field.
The teams meet in the second game of the series at 4 p.m. CDT Saturday. The SEC Network will televise the game.
With Friday’s win, fourth-ranked Alabama improved to 42-9 overall and 13-6 in SEC games, while South Carolina fell to 33-17, including 5-14 in the conference.
Tide starter Sydney Littlejohn (20-4) earned her 20th win of the season, holding the Gamecocks to one run over 4 2/3 innings, while Alexis Osorio earned her sixth save with 2 1/3 shutout innings. The six saves are the most for a Tide pitcher since Chrissy Owens totaled a school-record 11 as a freshman in 2005. Jessica Elliott (16-5) took the loss for South Carolina, exiting after four innings.
Haylie McCleney went 1-2 and also had a pair of walks. She now has the SEC record for free passes with 185 career bases on balls.
Chandler Dare went 3-4 batting behind McCleney. Reagan Dykes, Marisa Runyon, and Sydney Booker drove in the team’s three runs.
Demi Turner saw her first game action since her elbow injury against LSU on March 12, entering as a pinch-runner and scoring a run in the sixth inning.
A leadoff walk, stolen base and a single to shallow left put runners at the corners for Alabama in the top of the first and, two batters later, an RBI groundout to the right side by Dykes drove in McCleney. McCleney scored the Tide’s second run of the day in the top of the third with Runyon’s single driving her home to make it 2-0.
South Carolina erased the shutout in the bottom of the fifth with an RBI single by Kaylea Snaer. With two in scoring position and two out, Osorio entered to pitch in the save situation and Runyon fielded a hard shot at third base on the first pitch of the at-bat to end the inning and hold Alabama’s 2-1 lead.
Dykes led off the top of the sixth with a double and Turner entered to pinch run. A groundout to the right side advanced her to third and Booker drove her home on an RBI double.
South Carolina threatened in the bottom half of the seventh inning, putting two on base to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. Osorio’s fourth strikeout of the night quashed the comeback attempt by the Gamecocks.