Fourth-ranked Alabama got a three-run home run from Leona Lafaele and a complete game pitching performance from Alexis Osorio, and also benefitted from some sloppy Mississippi State play as the Crimson Tide opened the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Starkville with a 7-5 win over host team Mississippi State.
Alabama, the fifth seed in the tournament, will meet No. 4 seed Auburn in second round play beginning at 6:30 p.m. CDT Thursday. The SEC Network will televise the game.
Alabama improved to 46-11 on the year.
Osorio went the distance in improving her record to 15-6. She threw a career-high 153 pitches and gave up 7 hits, 5 runs (4 earned), walked 4, and struck out 8. State’s A. Silkwood took the loss.
Lafaele’s first inning homer drove in three runs. Chandler Dare had a pair of hits and an RBI and scored a run. Andrea Hawkins had one hit and scored two runs. Sydney Booker scored two runs. Peyton Grantham had a hit and two RBI, Kallie Case one hit and one RBI. All Alabama position players reached base at least once in the game.
Things did not begin well for Alabama as the Bulldogs got a two-run homer from Mackenzie Toler in the top of the first.
Alabama answered with its five-run first inning. Haylie McCleney got the first of her SEC Tournament record four walks to start it off. Dare singled to put two aboard and Lafael cleared the bases with her 14th home run of the season and 10th in the last 13 games, a blast over the right field wall. After a walk and a double play, Bama put another two runs across with Booker reaching on an error, Andrea Hawkins getting an infield hit, and Peyton Grantham bringing both home with a double to right center.
The Bulldogs got two back in the third on a walk and doubles by Kayla Winkfield and Caroline Seitz to make it 5-4 Bama.
Alabama sent eight batters to the plate in the bottom of the third, but managed to get only one run. The Bulldogs gave up two errors, a wild pitch, and a walk, but the only Tide run – unearned – came when Booker reached on an error, went to second on a wild pitch and to third on an error, and came home on a Case double.
State had five errors in the game.
A throwing error by Alabama second baseman Chandler Dare allowed State to pull back within a run in the fifth.
The final run came in the bottom of the fifth when Hawkins walked, advance to third on an error and a sacrifice bunt, and scored on Dare’s single.
The Bulldogs had the tying run at the plate and one out in the seventh, but Osorio struck out Toler and Calyn Adams to end the threat and the game.
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In other opening day games, South Carolina defeated Missouri, 7-4; LSU rallied to down Texas A&M, 5-4; and Ole Miss downed Georgia, 4-2. In addition to Bama’s game against Auburn, Thursday’s schedule has Tennessee facing South Carolina; LSU meeting Kentucky; and Florida going against Ole Miss.