Bama Splits with Gators for First Loss

The No. 2 University of Alabama softball team played with its highest ranking in program history on Wednesday in Gainesville, Fla. against the 22nd-ranked Florida Gators. Both teams came away with a win to split the doubleheader.

The Crimson Tide won the first game to extend its season-opening winning streak to 25 straight games. They were the last undefeated team in Division I softball and suffered their first loss in 2007 during the second game. It was the second longest winning streak to start the season in school history, two games shy of the 2001 team that began the year 27-0. Alabama is now 25-1 on the year and 4-1 in conference play. Florida is 20-11 overall and 2-3 in the SEC.

"The 25-game winning streak was great while it lasted but the law of averages finally caught up with us," said Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy.

In its first contest as the No. 2 team in the country, the Crimson Tide defeated Florida 6-2 with some clutch two-out hits and a three-run seventh inning.

Florida jumped on top in the bottom of the first inning. Kim Waleszonia fought off two 1-2 pitches for foul balls and then hit her second triple of the season. The next batter Lauren Roussell laid down a suicide squeeze to drive in the first run of the game.

The Crimson Tide came back to take the lead the next half inning with a key two-out hit by Ashley Holcombe. Dani Woods led off the inning with a walk and moved to second on a single up the middle by Charlotte Morgan. With two outs Holcombe came up to bat and drove a double down the left field line to drive in two runs for a 2-1 advantage. It was the first double of the season for Holcombe.

Alabama threatened again in the top of the fifth inning. With one out Kelley Montalvo lined a double into the gap in right center for her fifth double of the season. She moved to third when Brittany Rogers reached on an error by Roussell at shortstop. Jordan Praytor hit a ground ball to second base and Waleszonia threw out Montalvo at home for the second out in the inning and then Stacey Stevens struck Mandy Burford out to get out of the jam.

The Tide added one run in the sixth inning with another two-out RBI to make it 3-0. Following a walk by Morgan, Kellie Eubanks hit a high bouncing grounder up the middle that scooted off the glove of Waleszonia into the outfield for a double. Eubanks' second two-bagger of the year moved Morgan to third base. She then scored on a passed ball by Kristina Hilberth.

Chrissy Owens pitched a solid game up until the sixth inning when Florida scored one run on three hits to cut the lead in half. The top of the order came to bat with Waleszonia and Roussell hitting back-to-back singles to lead off the frame. Roussell advanced to third on an error by Bama left fielder Burford and then came in to score on a passed ball. A one-out single by Ali Gardiner and a walk by Lacy Howard loaded the bases. Savana Kelly hit a short fly ball to center field to bring in Roussell from third for the game-tying run, however, Holcombe checked with third base umpire Ed Whipple, and Roussell was ruled out at third for leaving before the catch was made.

Alabama took advantage of the mistake and tacked on three runs in the top of the seventh to put the game out of reach. Montalvo hit her second double of the game to lead off the inning but was thrown out attempting to steal third. Rogers reached base on an error and stole second base. She went to second on a double to center field by Praytor. Burford walked to load the bases but not for long as Woods came in and cleared the bases with a double to right center.

In the game the Tide tallied six doubles and 10 hits. Rogers went 2-for-4 with a run scored and also reached on two errors. Montalvo was 2-for-3 and Morgan scored two runs. Waleszonia led the Gators with two hits and two runs scored.

Owens improved to 13-0 with the win. She allowed one earned run on six hits with two walks and one strikeout. Stevens fell to 8-6 with the loss as she went the distance for Florida.

Morgan drew her first collegiate SEC start on the mound in the second game and helped herself take an early lead. After Lauren Parker led off the second inning with a single up the middle, Morgan stepped up and drove her third home run of the season to the deepest part of the park in center field.

In the top of the fourth inning, the Tide loaded the bases with one out and Holcombe hit a sacrifice fly to right field to bring home Parker from third base.

The Gators came back to score eight runs on five hits, three walks and one hit batter. All eight runs came with two outs. Three of the runs scored on either a walk or a hit batter with the bases loaded. Gardiner also had a two-run single up the middle for the final two runs of the inning.

Nelson allowed three hits over the next two innings but the Tide could not convert and stranded four runners on base. Alabama kept the hitting going into the seventh inning. With runners on first and second, Parker hit a double to the wall in left center to drive in UA's fourth run. They ended up loading the bases with two outs but a groundout would end the game at 8-4.

Despite receiving its first loss of the 2007 season, Alabama still recorded eight hits in the game. Parker led the way at 2-for-3 with two runs and one RBI. Morgan was 2-for-4 with one run and two RBI. Eubanks was perfect on the evening with two hits and two walks in four plate appearances. Praytor also extended her team-leading hitting streak to 10 games. Gardiner led Florida with three hits and two RBI while Kristina Hilberth also tallied a pair of hits to go with one run and one RBI.

"Basically anything that could go wrong did go wrong in that one inning," said Murphy. "They scored eight runs and there were no errors in the inning. Three walks, a hit-by-pitch and you mix in five hits that is what happens. I thought Blair (Potter) did a great job and Charlotte (Morgan) started really well. As an offensive coach, the only thing you can ask for in a game like that is to get the tying run up to the plate in the last inning and we did that. I truly thought (Ashley) Holcombe was going to hit a grand slam to tie the game. I am sure our whole dugout thought the same thing, but we ran out of outs. We will look to get back on track Saturday."

Morgan received her first collegiate loss and is now 5-1 on the season after allowing six runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings with two walks and one strikeout. Blair Potter pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings of relief with two hits allowed and two strikeouts. Stacey Nelson improved to 12-5 after pitching seven innings with three earned runs allowed on eight hits. She walked five batters to go with five strikeouts.

The Tide will stay on the road this weekend when they travel to Columbia, S.C. for a three-game series against the SEC East-leading South Carolina Gamecocks. The two squads will play a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday and will conclude the series with a single game Sunday at 1 p.m.


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