The Alabama softball team had to wait an extra day to play its quarterfinal game, and the wait definitely was not worth it. The Crimson Tide exited that Southeastern Conference Tournament at Nusz Park in Starkville by losing to Auburn, 6-4, Friday.
Alabama, now 46-12, now awaits its seeding and regional location in the NCAA Tournament, which will be announced Sunday night.
While the wait to play Friday’s game was long, there wasn’t much wait to have an indication of the outcome. Auburn (47-9) scored four runs in the bottom of the first inning and the Crimson Tide was never able to catch up.
Alabama had a hope in the seventh inning when Haylie McCleney led off the inning with an infield single and advanced to scoring position on a groundout. Leona Lafaele, Bama’s leading home run hitter, hit a long fly, but it fell short at the warning track for out number two and a groundout ended the game.
McCleney and Andrea Hawkins each had multi-hit performances, with McCleney scoring two of the team’s four runs.
Sydney Littlejohn (22-6) took the loss while Madi Moore pitched 3 1/3 effective shutout relief innings, holding the Tigers to just three hits. Rachael Walters (10-3) earned the win for Auburn while Makayla Martin posted her third save with 3 2/3 relief innings.
Auburn started its half of the first with back-to-back infield singled and a walk to load the bases. Carlee Wallace had a two-run double into the gap in left center. A groundout scored a third run and a Bama error gave the Tigers a 4-0 lead.
Sydney Booker drew a two-out walk in the top of the second to give Alabama its first baserunner and Hawkins delivered an RBI double into right center for Alabama’s first hit and its first run.
With runners at the corners in the bottom of the second, Jade Rhodes hit an RBI single into shallow center that fell in front of a diving McCleney to give Auburn a 5-1 lead.
With one out in the top of the third, McCleney and Chandler Dare hit back-to-back doubles to score a run and make it 5-2.
Auburn regained its four-run lead on an RBI single by Emily Carosone in the bottom of the third, which ended Littlejohn’s outing. Alabama switched out its battery with Madi Moore entering to pitch and Carrigan Fain entering to catch with runners at the corners and two out. A walk would load the bases before a lineout ended the inning with the Tigers taking a 6-2 lead to the fourth inning.
A walk and a base hit would put two on with one out for Alabama in the top of the fourth and Auburn made a call to its bullpen as Makayla Martin entered to pitch in relief for Walters. A pair of groundouts got the Tigers out of the jam as it remained 6-2 at the halfway point of the game. The Auburn left fielder dropped a fly ball to start the top of the fifth, allowing McCleney to reach second base. After advancing to third on a wild pitch, McCleney tagged up and came home on a sacrifice fly by Leona Lafaele to draw within three, 6-3.
Fain and pinch-hitter Caroline Hardy led off the top of the sixth with base hits and Hawkins dropped a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position with one out. Peyton Grantham lifted a fly ball to center field which allowed pinch-runner Rachel Bobo to tag up and score and draw Alabama within two, down 6-4.