Tide rides Laird to sweep of Rebels

OXFORD, MS -- Behind the strong right arm of Shelley Laird, the Alabama softball team (36-13, 16-4 in the Southeastern Conference) swept a doubleheader from the Ole Miss Rebels (23-18, 5-12) 5-1 and 4-0.

Laird finished the day with two starts, nine innings pitched, one run on only three hits and seven strikeouts while picking up her 20th win on the season and moving to within 11 strikeouts of the 1,000 strikeout mark. The win in Game 1 marked the fourth time in her career that she has reached the 20-win plateau.

Alabama jumped on top early in Game 1, taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. Jackie Wilkins reached on a one-out single and stole second. Jackie McClain drew an intentional walk, the eighth of her career which ties her for second all-time in Alabama history. Ashley Courtney then singled scoring Wilkins and sending McClain to third while taking second on the throw home. Lacy Prejean hit a long fly ball to right field allowing McClain to tag from third for the second run in the inning.

Laird has now won 20 games or more four times.

The Rebels cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third inning on a RBI single from designated player Jessica Hamilton.

The Tide added to its lead in the top of the fourth inning. Johnson led off with a single and took second on a bunt single from Emily Currie. Leah White hit into a fielder's choice with Currie being forced out at second. White stole second and then both runners came in to score on a double from Jennifer Reach. Reach then took third on a ground out from Olcott and came in to score on a single from Wilkins for the final 5-1 score.

Jennifer Wright came on to pitch the final inning in relief retiring the Rebels in order including two strikeouts. The Ole Miss run in the bottom of the second inning, broke a streak of 23.1 scoreless innings by the Tide pitching staff against the Rebels.

Prejean's RBI in the first inning was a season high 25th run driven in for the junior catcher.

The Tide jumped on top early on again in the second game loading the bases by virtue of two walks and a hit batter. With one out and Johnson at the plate, Ole Miss pitcher Lyndsey Whatley unleashed a wild pitch scoring Courtney. Catcher Dede Justice, in an attempt to throw Courtney out at home, threw wildly back to the plate allowing McClain to score for a 2-0 Alabama lead.

Ashley Courtney was Bama's leading hitter.

Bama added to its lead in the third inning. Wilkins reached on a one-out error and took second on a single by Courtney. McClain took a 1-0 pitch and hit a bullet that first baseman Andrea Brahs was unable to handle loading the bases for Prejean. Prejean delivered a one-out single to left that was bobbled by leftfielder Britte Hardy scoring Wilkins and Courtney for a 4-0 Alabama lead.

Four runs was more than enough for the Crimson Tide pitching staff as Laird, Jennifer Wright and Erin Wright combined for the shutout allowing only three hits while striking out seven batters including three strikeouts by Erin Wright in two innings of work.

The shutout for the Tide was fourth in the last five games against the Rebels.

Offensively, freshman Ashley Courtney led the Tide going 4-5 with two runs and a RBI on the day.

The two teams will get together for the third and final game of the series on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.

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