Tide Softball Falls In SEC Title Game

Alabama has an excellent softball team, but the Crimson Tide came up just short to Florida throughout Southeastern Conference competition this year. It happened again Saturday as the Gators used a late-inning grand slam home run to defeat Bama, 4-1, in the championship game of the SEC Tournament at Baton Rouge.



Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy was disappointed, but pragmatic following the game. Nothing can be done about the SEC race. Florida edged Bama for the regular season championship, then took the tournament title in a game of teams ranked in the nation's top three.

Murphy said, "We will take tomorrow off to watch the NCAA selections tomorrow night and then start to get scouting reports on where we are going. After that, the team is going to be practicing all week and start lifting weights again to get ready for the regional."

Florida pitcher Stacey Nelson got the win and was named Most Valuable Player in the tournament, but as far as Alabama is concerned the Gators couldn't do without senior Mary Ratliff. Ratliff clubbed a two-out, two-strike pitch for a grand slam home run to beat Bama Saturday. Two months earlier when the league's top teams met in the second game of a doubleheader, Ratliff blasted a two-out, two-strike seventh inning home run to beat Alabama and earn a split with the Crimson Tide.

Both home runs came off Alabama freshman hurler Kelsi Dunne (22-4). The Port Orange, Fla., native had pitched a fantastic game until that point. She allowed five total hits and struck out six.

Murphy said, "It was one pitch and they capitalized on it. Florida just got the hit when they needed to and I thought our one run was going to stand up because we were throwing a good game and playing good defense.

"Nelson is a great pitcher and we were just hoping for some more hits, more opportunities. I thought that when we got a runner at third with one out and Charlotte Morgan drove in the run in the top of the sixth, that run would stand up."

Nelson improved to 40-2 on the season. Florida is now 62-2 and has won 35 games in a row. The Crimson Tide falls to 51-6 and awaits word on NCAA Tournament plans on the selection show at 9 p.m. Sunday night on ESPNU.

A leadoff single in the sixth inning by Brittany Rogers through the left side of the infield put the pressure on the Florida defense that would lead to Alabama's only run of the game.

Jordan Praytor sacrificed her over to second base with a perfect bunt and Rogers then moved up to third on a wild pitch from Nelson. Charlotte Morgan show why she leads the SEC in RBI by putting the next pitch in play with a ground ball to second base that scored Rogers.

The RBI was Morgan's 69th of the season, which ties the Alabama single-season record set by Ginger Jones in 2000.

Morgan, Dunne and Whitney Larsen were named to the SEC All-Tournament team for the Crimson Tide.

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