Tide Wins In SEC Tourney

AUBURN, Ala. – The third-seeded University of Alabama softball team rallied from a 2-0 deficit late in the game for a 3-2 victory in nine innings over sixth-seeded Georgia Thursday. The win allows Bama to advance to the Southeastern Conference Tournament Semifinals at Jane B. Moore Field on the campus of Auburn University.

"Today, win or lose, we needed to play in this type of situation," said Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy. "It was a tight game. We had to have the defense, we had to have the pitching and our theme all year long was that we were going to come up with key hit at some point. We needed a game where the defense and pitching had that constant threat. I thought both of our pitchers did a good job."

The score was tied at 2-2 entering the bottom of the ninth inning. Sophomore Kellie Eubanks (Prairieville, La.) led off the frame with a double to the gap in left center. It was her seventh double of the season and second hit of the game. Mallory Benak came in to pinch-run for Eubanks and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Katie Johnson. Brittany Rogers then came up and hit a hard grounder up the middle for the game-winning single as Benak tallied her 28th run of the season.

"We kind of left a few runners on base," said Rogers. "We just needed to do it one at a time. Today wasn't just a big hit as much as following each other, keeping it going and getting one base at a time. I just wanted to hit something hard and make someone make a play."

Trailing 2-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Tide needed to get something started and a great at bat by Kelley Montalvo provided the necessary lift. She battled by fouling off four pitches with a full count and on the 10th pitch she hit a single up the middle. Georiga's pitcher Kasi Carroll then hit Alabama's designated player, Jordan Praytor, in the back to put runners on first and second. Two batters later Mandy Burford loaded the bases with an infield single to third base. After a fielder's choice second baseman Michelle Menningmann came to the plate.

The senior from Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. was making her 15th start of the season. She hit a high-bouncing single over the third baseman's head to drive in two runs and tie the game at 2-2. The two RBI increase Menningmann's season total to 15.

"With two outs, I was just looking to hit something hard and get it through the infield to score a couple of runs," said Menningmann. "With two outs, I knew the runners were going."

The pitching was stellar for the Tide all game. Senior Blair Potter earned the starting nod and only allowed two runs on five hits in five innings with one walk and three strikeouts. Chrissy Owens came in to pitch the final four innings and only allowed two hits with two strikeouts to improve to 24-3 on the year.

"Blair was great," said Murphy. "She was just what we needed. I kept looking up at the scoreboard, and they had scored a run with no hits for several innings. Chrissy did a great job. We finally got their leadoff batter out in the seventh or eighth, and that was a key out."

Georgia scored the first run of the game in the first inning. Kellie Middleton drew a walk to lead off the game and stole second base. Potter struck out Sojourner Moody but a pitch in the dirt allowed the runner to reach first base. A double steal put runners on second and third with no outs and Melissa Wood followed with a RBI groundout to the shortstop.

The Bulldogs added a run in the top of the sixth. Middleton tallied her second hit of the contest with a leadoff double to center field. Moody followed with a bunt single to put runners at the corners. Potter got Wood to hit a grounder back to her but Middleton scored on the play and Wood beat out the throw to first for another single. Owens came in to pitch after the third hit of the inning and proceeded to get two straight ground outs, one for a 5-3 double play as Montalvo snared a shot hit down the left field line to save at least one run.

In extra innings Owens only allowed one hit, a two-out single in the top of the ninth by Christie Hamilton.

Besides the big hit by Menningmann to tie the game, three other Crimson Tide players contributed two hits in the win. Rogers finished 2-for-5 with the game-winning RBI. Burford was 2-for-4 with a run scored and Kellie Eubanks also had two hits. Middleton scored both of Georgia's runs in the game and was 2-for-3. Wood had both RBI's for the Bulldogs.

Carroll receives the loss for UGA to fall to 26-9 on the year. She went the distance, allowing three runs on 10 hits in 8 1/3 innings with three walks and five strikeouts. The Bulldogs are now 43-26 on the season.

Alabama improved to 51-6 on the year and will await the winner of the quarterfinal game between second-seeded LSU and seventh-seeded South Carolina. The Tide has now won its first game in the SEC Tournament in nine of its 11 seasons.

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