Tide Wins Softball Tourney Opener

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The No. 3 ranked Alabama softball team continued its winning ways and began the postseason in impressive fashion with an 8-0 victory in five innings over Arkansas Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference tournament at Lee Stadium. The win moves the Crimson Tide's winning streak to 13 games and pushes its record to 46-8 on the season.

"We had the leadoff on every inning and she scored, and that's about all you can ask for from an offense; get them on and get them in," Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy said. "I thought we were very good picking the right pitches to hit. Charlotte has been on a role. She threw a no-hitter against Georgia Tech and followed that up with some good performances. She one-hit Tennessee here last weekend so we were familiar with the field. I think she was just excited to get back out there."

Alabama opened the scoring in the bottom of the first and was able to manufacture the first run behind a walk to senior Brittany Rogers. The fleet-footed centerfielder stole her 43rd base of the season and then was promptly brought home on a sharply hit grounder up the middle off the bat of senior Lauren Parker.

Junior Charlotte Morgan followed with a double off the left-centerfield wall that plated Parker from second. Newcomer Cassandra Reilly-Boccia then drilled a hard groundball to Arkansas second baseman Kayla Johnson that was mishandled and trickled to right field to score Morgan and bring the early Crimson Tide lead to 3-0.

Alabama continued its scoring in the second inning when Murphy called the double steal with runners on the corners. With Whitney Larsen on first and Kellie Eubanks on third, who led off the inning with a walk, Larsen went out in between first and second and drew the throw which enabled Eubanks to swipe home to increase the Tide lead to 4-0.

Morgan helped her cause once again and became the first player in Alabama history to tally at least 50 RBI in three different seasons when she hit a sacrifice fly to deep right that plated Larsen from third to increase the UA lead to 5-0.

Alabama once again made Arkansas pay for allowing the leadoff batter reach base. Reilly-Boccia started the third with a single down the right field line and then Ashley Holcombe extended her hitting streak to 12 games in a big way. The backstop drilled her second home run in as many weekends at Lee Stadium with a lined shot over the left field wall to bring the score to 7-0.

The Crimson continued to put pressure on the Razorbacks and push across more runs. For the fourth consecutive inning Alabama was able to plate a run. Morgan tallied her third RBI and second sacrifice fly of the contest when she plated Larsen on a fly ball to right to conclude the Alabama offensive onslaught at 8-0.

Parker led Alabama at the plate with a 3-for-3 effort, adding a run and a RBI. Morgan tallied three RBI and one hit while Holcombe drove in two and scored a run.

Morgan was brilliant once again in the circle, going four innings while only allowing one hit. Morgan improved to 15-6 on the season after fanning four and walking one. Amanda Locke finished the game with a perfect fifth inning.

Alabama will now head to the semifinals and play Kentucky Friday at 5 p.m. EDT. Kentucky, the sixth seed, defeated the three seed Georgia 2-0 to open the tournament. This is Kentucky's third appearance in the SEC Tournament and the Wildcats' first since 2001.

Freshman Rachel Riley pitched a complete game shutout, giving up five hits and striking out two to earn the program's first victory in the SEC Tournament. Wildcat shortstop Molly Johnson provided the game's only offensive production with a two-run homerun in the top of the fifth inning.

Kentucky is batting .264 as a team and holding the opposition to a .244 mark. The Wildcat's pitchers combine for a 3.79 ERA while the opposing hurlers hold a 4.25 ERA. Johnson and Meagan Aull lead Kentucky at the plate. Johnson has collected a team-high 71 hits in 169 at-bats for a .420 batting average. The junior shortstop has also driven in 33 runs and hit nine home runs. Aull brings in a ..310 batting average with 52 hits and 24 RBI. To go along with her .360 on-base percentage, Aull has 25 stolen bases in 29 attempts.

In the circle Kentucky is led by Chanda Bell and Amber Matousek. Bell has made 32 appearances and 23 starts for the Wildcats in 2009 and sports an 18-8 overall record and a 3.21 ERA. In 129 innings pitched Bell has given up 73 runs and struck out 206 batters. Matousek has made 22 appearances and 21 starts for an 8-7 mark. In 113 innings Matousek has given up 86 runs and struck out 61 batters for 5.23 ERA. Kentucky returns 10 letterwinners to a team that went 17-37 in 2008.

In 34 meetings between Alabama and Kentucky the Tide holds a near perfect 33-1 all-time record. The Wildcats' last victory in the series was on March 21, 2004 at the UK Softball Complex in Lexington, Ky. The 7-5 win broke No. 6 Alabama's 17-game winning streak. The teams met twice this year as Alabama hosted Kentucky for a midweek doubleheader on Tuesday, April 14. The Tide earned a 2-1 victory in game one behind a no-hitter by sophomore Kelsi Dunne. In game two Alabama scored a run in five consecutive innings to down Kentucky 5-3.

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