Alabama had a bad loss at Rhoads Stadium Saturday. It wasn’t just the score, a 9-5 loss to Georgia which salvaged one win in the three-game series. It was the upcoming Southeastern Conference Softball Tournament.
With a win, Alabama would have been the second seed in the tournament. Even with the loss, if any of three other SEC teams – Kentucky, Tennessee, or Auburn – had lost, the Tide would have been in the top four and earned a bye in the first round of the tournament.
Instead, Alabama will play on opening night, the final game of Day One of the tournament in Starkville, against host team Mississippi State at 6:30 p.m. CDT Wednesday. The tournament runs through Saturday.
The loss left fourth-ranked Alabama with a 45-11 overall record and a 16-8 mark in SEC games. The Tide finished fifth in SEC regular season play behind champion Florida (20-4), a game behind Kentucky (17-7), and half a game behind Tennessee and Auburn (both 16-7).
Mississippi State is the 12th seed in the tournament with a 3-21 conference record. The winner of that game will meet Auburn on Thursday.
Alabama had a big rally to come from behind against Georgia and win the series on Saturday, but on Sunday the hill proved too steep as a late comeback try fell short.
“We just needed a better overall start from our starting lineup,” Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy said. “There were too many holes in the lineup and we didn’t play very good defense. We had a little run at the end but it was too little, too late.”
Alabama fell behind early to Georgia (40-16, 12-12 SEC) and four runs late in the game proved too little, too late to overcome the deficit. Leona Lafaele went 3-4 batting third, driving in two of the team’s five runs with a solo home run and an RBI double. Kallie Case slugged her fourth career home run in the seventh inning, her first long ball since playing at Georgia last year. The Tide used all three of its pitchers, with starter Sydney Littlejohn (22-5) taking the loss after 3 2/3 innings pitched. For Georgia, Chelsea Wilkinson (23-6) threw six of the seven innings to earn her 23rd win of the season.
Sunday’s attendance of 3,725 make weekend attendance for the final series 10,779, and a season average of a national record 3,087.
“The attendance this year has been unbelievable,” Murphy said. “It’s unfortunate that we had a great crowd for a great cause today and didn’t come out with the win. We’ve lucked out on some weather which has helped a lot.”
Georgia struck in the opening inning with an RBI single and a fielding error allowed another to cross to make it 2-0.
A solo home run by Lafaele in the bottom half of the inning cut the lead in half.
The Bulldogs then had seven unanswered runs over the next four innings to pull ahead by9-1.
An RBI double by Lafaele in the sixth made it a 9-2 game and Alabama tacked on three more in the bottom of the seventh to draw within four but a strikeout ended the game with two on base in the seventh.