McClain powers Tide to victory

CHATTANOOGA, TN-For the second consecutive season, the Crimson Tide softball team (46-18) met the Auburn Tigers (38-25) in an elimination game of the 2002 SEC Tournament, however this time it was the Tide that came out victorious 5-4.

It was a homecoming of sorts for Alabama sophomore All-American Jackie McClain, a Chattanooga native, and she took advantage of the opportunity helping the Tide break a four-game slide to the Tigers with a go-ahead three-run home run in the sixth inning.

As they have done many times this season, the Crimson Tide jumped out to an early lead. Jackie Wilkins led off the game with a walk, stole second, advanced to third on a single by Suzanne Olcott and came in to score on a long sacrifice fly to right field from McClain for a 1-0 Alabama lead.

The Tigers tied the game in the bottom of the inning on a single to left field from Kasey Angulo that scored Ashley Moore.

In the bottom of the third, the Tigers knocked Alabama starter Erin Wright out of the game with three hits including Jodie Van Ooyen's single to left that scored Jennifer Hammock for a 2-1 Auburn lead.

The Tigers scored an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth on a two-out single from Van Ooyen scoring Robin Thornburg for a 3-1 lead.

Alabama finally broke through in the top of the sixth inning with Wilkins and Suzanne Olcott drawing back-to-back walks. Jennifer Lofton who was on in relief of starter Kristin Keyes, then grooved a pitch that McClain sent over the right-centerfield fence for her eighth home run of the season, a career high, and a 4-3 Alabama lead. Ashley Courtney then followed with a double to right-centerfield, took third on a wild pitch and came in to score on a single by Lacy Prejean for a 5-3 Crimson Tide lead.

"It was good for my family to be able and come see us win because they had won four straight against us and it's a big rivalry," said McClain. "I didn't know it was gone till I saw our bus driver jumping up and down and trying to catch it."

Auburn cut into the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning with Angulo leading off with a double and advancing to third on a ground out. Another double from Martha Phillips scored her cutting the lead to 5-4. Alabama All-American Shelley Laird came on in relief of Jennifer Wright and after giving up a single, retired the next two batters to nail down her fifth save of the season and the victory for the Tide.

McClain finished the day 1-2 with a run scored and four RBI, which included her 100th career RBI. Courtney went 2-2 with a run scored.

Laird's save was the 16th of her career moving her into a tie for sixth on the all-time NCAA save list. The Tide will now face the LSU Tigers in an elimination game tonight at 8:00 p.m. ET.

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