Mandy Burford hit a towering walk-off three-run home run to left field in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the third-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide softball team a 6-3 victory over number 11 Louisiana Lafayette in the final game of the Easton Spring Fling on Sunday.
"We needed a game like this whether we won or lost," said Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy. "We have been outscoring our opponents a lot and needed this kind of a test. You tell them it doesn't matter whether you score seven in the first or seven in the eighth the game is not over until the last out. They were very resilient and just refused to lose."
Burford drove in Jordan Praytor and Lauren Parker with her second home run of the day. Praytor started things off for Bama with one out. She dropped down a bunt towards third base and beat it out for single. Parker followed with a fly ball to left that was dropped by Desi Chatman to put runners on first and second and set up Burford's game-winning heroics.
"Charlotte (Morgan) came up to me after the left fielder dropped the fly ball and said ‘God was giving me another opportunity to do something and I needed to do something with it," said Burford. "I was just trying to hit it hard so Jordan (Praytor) could score.
The biggest hit of the day for Alabama might not have been Burford's walk-off home run. The Tide trailed 3-2 with one out in the bottom of the seventh when Kellie Eubanks hit a line drive over the wall in left to even the score. It was her third home run of the season. Prior to Sunday's game, Alabama had not trailed after the third inning this season.
"I watched the first pitch and it was a strike and I knew she was going to come at me on the second one so I just wanted to put it in play and see if we could get something started," said Eubanks. "I knew it was a shot but I didn't know it was a home run until I saw it go over."
Burford also hit a two-run shot in the first inning to capitalize on an error by Louisiana Lafayette's pitcher, Brittany Cuevas, who couldn't field a bunt attempt by Parker. The two home runs increase Burford's team-leading total to seven on the year, two more than her career high of five set in 2006. It was the second time this season she had hit two home runs in one game. She also hit two in the championship game of the Century-Tel Softball Classic in San Marcos, Texas. Burford was named the Easton Spring Fling MVP for her efforts.
The Ragin' Cajuns came back to even the score in the top of the second. Meagan Godwin led off the inning with a single to left field. Melissa Verde then hit one back to the pitcher, Charlotte Morgan, but Morgan couldn't handle it and allowed Verde to reach on an error. With one out in the inning, Karli Hubbard loaded the bases with a bunt single back to the pitcher. Morgan bounced back to fool Tara Hamilton for a strikeout, but the next batter, Codi Runyan came through with a two-out single to center to drive in two runs and even the score at 2-2.
Chrissy Owens improved to 10-0 after coming in to pitch for Charlotte Morgan in the top of the eighth inning for the Tide. After giving up a leadoff single to Holly Tankersley, she settled down and got two of the next three batters to strikeout swinging and end the inning. Morgan pitched the first seven innings and allowed one earned run on six hits with a career-high eight strikeouts.
"Charlotte Morgan did a great job for seven innings," said Murphy. "I was really proud of her. Everybody did a really good job supporting her it is just the offense didn't come through until late."
Burford ended the day going 2-for-4 with two runs and five RBI. Parker added two runs and Brittany Rogers went 2-for-4 with a double. Praytor, Rogers, Parker and Owens were all named to the All-Tournament team along with Burford.
Runyan had a big day and tournament for ULL. She went 2-for-4 with one run and three RBI on Sunday. She hit her third home run of the weekend and finished with 11 RBI in four games. Tankersley joined Runyan and Melissa Verde as the three Ragin' Cajuns on the All-Tournament team. Tankersley went 2-for-4 on Sunday. Brittany Cuevas received just her second loss of the season. She pitched 7 1/3 innings with three earned runs on seven hits. She also struck out six in the game.
The Tide extends its perfect season to 21-0 heading into Southeastern Conference play while Louisiana Lafayette fell to 20-4.
Alabama will face host Mississippi State in a three-game series next weekend to start the SEC season. They will play a double-header beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday and then play one game on Sunday starting at 1:30 p.m.
EASTON SPRING FLING All-Tournament Team
Daria Glynos – Seton Hall
Melissa Verde – ULL
Codi Runyan – ULL
Holly Tankersley – ULL
Jordan Praytor – Alabama
Lauren Parker – Alabama
Brittany Rogers – Alabama
Chrissy Owens – Alabama
MVP - Mandy Burford – Alabama