Laird near perfect as Tide advances

TUSCALOOSA, AL-Tide softball All-American Shelley Laird flirted with perfection Saturday afternoon but it was not meant to be as the Tide defeated the Samford Bulldogs 7-0 to advance to the championship game of the 2002 Bama Bash!

Laird took a perfect game through six innings, but in the top of the seventh Bulldog shortstop Mindy Shunnarah doubled over the head of left fielder Tiffany Johnson to break up the perfecto.

Laird struck out 14 batters en route to her 93rd career victory which ties the Southeastern Conference record for all-time wins.

"I wish we got the run in the sixth inning so she wouldn't have had to go back out there," said Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy. "Nine strikeouts in a row, that was just vintage Shelley. She got into a groove."

Alabama jumped on top immediately but one run was all Laird needed. Jennifer Reach and Jackie McClain drew one-out walks and two batters later, Ashley Courtney hit her first collegiate homerun staking Alabama to a 3-0 lead. "Ashley showed signs of (hitting the ball) all fall," said Murphy. "She's getting better and better."

The Tide added four insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth inning on three hits and a Samford error. With Lacy Prejean on third and Courtney on second, Bulldog catcher Angela Bednark threw down to third in an attempt to pick off Prejean, but the throw went into left field scoring Prejean and Courtney for the final 7-0 score.

(Left to right) Suzanne Olcott, Shelly Laird and Jackie McClain pose at the Bama Softball Complex.

The Tide will face the Evansville Purple Aces in the championship game which is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. The game will be aired on WVUA 90.7 and can be heard on the internet at Live play by play and stats will be available at

In earlier action, Alabama's Erin Wright held Evansville to five hits throwing Alabama's second shut out of the tournament in a 6-0 victory. Suzanne Olcott led the way offensively for the Tide hitting her first home run of the season, a three-run home run to left field.

Bama started the game off in the bottom of the first inning when Olcott led off with a single, stole second, took third on a ground out and scored on a single by Jackie McClain. Then with runners on second and third, Courtney hit a hot shot right back at the pitcher that scored Tiffany Johnson who was pinch running for McClain, giving Alabama a 2-0 lead.

Alabama added a third run in the bottom of the third inning when Prejean singled and came home on a triple by Courtney for a 3-0 lead. Olcott then homered in the fourth for the final 6-0 score.

The win was Wright's first of the season and her sixth career shutout.

Evansville Advances to Championship Game

In the second semifinal game, the Purple Aces got a "clutch" performance as Casey Clutch came on in relief of Katie Markle in the sixth inning to stop a Maryland rally and preserve a 4-2 victory.

Designated player Brooke Luker led the Purple Aces going 2-3 with a run scored.

Clutch's save was the first ever in the history of the Bama Bash!

Maryland Defeats Samford in Day 2 Action of Bama Bash!

The Maryland Terrapins opened Day 2 of the Bama Bash! with a bang defeating the Samford Bulldogs 11-1 in five innings.

The Terps struck for six runs in the first inning and never looked back to gain their second win in the tournament. First baseman Kiesha Pickeral paced the Maryland offense going 1-3 with a home run, three RBI and two runs scored.

Maryland and Samford will face each other again in the consolation game of the Bama Bash! set to begin at 11:00 a.m.

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