There was an elephant in the room...the Alabama Crimson Tide softball lockerroom. Everyone involved in Bama softball knew that Tide Coach Patrick Murphy was on the brink of his 1,000th career victory. And though it came with more difficulty than might have been expected, the 2017 Alabama team delivered the victory with a come-fromn-behind 5-3 win over Kent State at Rhoads Stadium Tuesday.
“I didn’t think about it or talk about it,” Murphy said. “I know they’ve talked about it behind the scenes, but I didn’t mention it at all over the weekend or today. It’s about the team, not me. I think they realize that.”
Murphy is the 23rd coach in Division-I softball history to reach 1,000 wins and is the 16th active coach to reach the milestone. He is the seventh SEC coach to reach 1,000 wins, joining Tennessee’s Ralph and Karen Weekly, Texas A&M’s Jo Evans, Auburn’s Clint Meyers, Georgia’s Lu Harris-Champer and former South Carolina coach Joyce Compton.
“These players have been terrific to coach since day one,” Murphy said. “All of them through all 19 teams. Everyone on the team and all the support staff are tremendous role models. It’s not just about one person.”
For the fourth-consecutive game, Alabama (31-4) fell behind early as Kent State (10-16) scored one in the top of the first. The Tide would knot it up at 1-1 in the bottom half of the inning and take a 3-1 lead in the second before a two-run home run in the top of the third tied it up at 3-3. A solo home run by Mari Cranek would break the tie in the bottom of the sixth and an RBI single by Sydney Booker added some insurance, scoring the final run in the eventual two-run victory.
Demi Turner again set the pace at the top of the order, going 2-4 with a run scored and an RBI. Claire Jenkins tallied two of the team’s five RBIs on a two-run single and Booker was 3-3 at the bottom of the order.
Sydney Littlejohn (12-1) went the distance in the complete-game victory, striking out 10.
Kent State took the first lead of the game in the top of the first after a leadoff walk and an RBI single by Maddy Grimm. Alabama quickly gained the lead in the bottom half of the inning with a two-run single by Jenkins, making it 2-1. Turner added another in the bottom of the second with a sharply-hit RBI single down the right-field line to stretch it to 3-1 but Grimm tied it up at 3-3 in the top of the third with a two-run home run.
The score remained tied until the bottom of the sixth, when Cranek smashed a leadoff solo home run to right field to give Alabama a 4-3 lead. Booker added some cushion with an RBI single later in the inning and that would prove the final run as Kent State went down in order in the top of the seventh to end the game.
This weekend, Alabama continues SEC play on the road with a three-game series at Missouri (18-13, 1-4 SEC), starting Friday, March 31 at 6:30 p.m. CT. Game two, set for a 5 p.m. CT start on Saturday, April 1, will be broadcast live on SEC Network.