Tide Softball to 23-0

The No. 3 University of Alabama softball team swept a double-header against Mississippi State on Saturday at the Alabama Softball Complex to remain undefeated at 23-0 and begin its SEC season 2-0.

Alabama became the last undefeated team in the country with their two victories and a Tennessee 4-0 loss to Florida. The Tide are off to their second best start in school history. They started the 2001 season 27-0.

"I thought after the early beginnings both pitchers settled down and pitched really well," said Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy. "I thought Blair (Potter) pitched the best game of her career and Chrissy (Owens) did a really good job after the first inning. The defense played really well at the end and offensively we came through in situations where we needed to put the ball in play and had good baserunning."

The Tide found themselves in unfamiliar territory in the first game of the day as the Bulldogs put two runs on the board in the top of the first inning. It was only the second time this season that Alabama had allowed its opponent to score in the opening frame.

Chelsea Bramlett started things off with a bunt single. It was one of three hits in the inning for MSU. The big hit in the inning came with two outs as Jessie Bailey hit a single down the left field line to drive in two runs.

"You have to give credit to them," said Murphy. "They came out ready to play and got the big hit with the bases loaded and two outs. We haven't given up many bases loaded hits all season. We did a really good job of keeping them from having an even bigger inning."

Alabama came back to tie the game in the third inning. Three hits and two MSU errors helped lead to the two runs. Kelley Montalvo led off the inning with an infield single and went to second on a throwing error. Brittany Rogers followed with an infield hit and a stolen base to place runners on second and third. On Rogers' stolen base, the Bulldogs' catcher Blair Hewett committed one of her two errors in the game to allow Montalvo to score. Lauren Parker drove in Rogers with a sacrifice fly to tie the score at 2-2.

Jordan Praytor gave the Tide its first lead in the game with a two-run single in the fourth inning to score Rogers and Charlotte Morgan, who each singled. Alabama took advantage of unforced errors in the fifth inning to close out the game with six runs on two hits and three errors. Ashley Holcombe had the big hit in the inning with a bases loaded single to center field to drive in two runs. Praytor hit a hard shot to second base that was mishandled, allowing the final two runs to come home and end the game by the eight-run rule, 10-2.

"I was just trying to hit the ball hard and was fortunate I had runners on in front of me so I could hit them in," said Holcombe. "It is really important to start off ahead, especially at home because we are going to have some tough road series."

Holcombe and Praytor both finished with two RBI in the game. Rogers matched a career high, scoring three runs and notching three hits in four at bats on the day. Morgan also added two runs and Dani Woods was 1-for-1 with two walks and a run scored.

Following the first inning Alabama ace Chrissy Owens settled down and would shutout the Bulldogs the rest of the way to improve to 11-0. She finished with two runs on eight hits in five innings to go with one walk and five strikeouts. Mississippi State used three pitchers in the game with Sara Hickerson receiving the loss to fall to 2-3 on the year.

Mississippi State also scored first in the second game of the twin-bill. Sammy Jo Bailey punished the Tide for an error that extended the second inning with a two-run home run to center field. It could have been worse, however, as Montalvo made a stellar defensive play on a hard hit ground ball to third base at the start of the inning.

Alabama responded with another big inning in the third with five runs. It was the 10th time this season that they have scored five or more runs in a single inning. Rogers led off the inning with a high chopper to shortstop for an infield single. She then swiped second base for her 20th stolen base of the season. Praytor took advantage with the runner in scoring position and laced a single through the right side to cut the lead in half.

After an error and a sacrifice bunt put runners on second and third, Mandy Burford and Kellie Eubanks each picked up a RBI, reaching base on a pair of fielder's choice hits. Holcombe put the exclamation mark on the inning with a single to right field to score two more runs and put Bama in front 5-2.

Blair Potter had settled in to a grove, holding the Bulldogs to one hit in the first five innings. MSU threatened in the top of the sixth with one out as they put two runners on with a walk and a bunt single. That prompted Murphy to make the switch and bring in Morgan to pitch. She allowed a single up the middle by Hayle Guess to drive in a run but would catch a break from a base-running mistake to end the inning. Courtney Bures popped it up to Parker at second base for the second out and Nakita Boyce came in to score. However, Boyce was called out for leaving before the ball was caught, ending the inning and MSU's chance at a comeback.

Morgan forced two groundouts right back to her to lead off the seventh and then Laura Leigh Reese struck out swinging to end the game. Morgan picked up her first collegiate save, throwing 1 2/3 innings with two hits allowed and one strikeout. Potter improved to 5-0 on the season after allowing one earned run on two hits in 5 1/3 innings with one walk and six strikeouts.

Praytor had a good game for the Tide with two hits, one run and one RBI. Holcombe closed out the day by posting two RBI in both victories.

The final game of the three-game series will be played at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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