Tide Softball Falls In SEC Finals

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The No. 3 Alabama softball team fell in the Southeastern Conference championship game to No. 1 Florida by the score of 8-5 Saturday afternoon at Lee Stadium on the University of Tennessee campus. For the second consecutive game the Gators were down early but rallied to win. After the tournament Alabama moves to 47-9 on the season while Florida improves to 55-3 on the year.

"I thought we played well, kept our composure and fought," Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy said. "We got some different people in there to get them experience in different situations. I want to congratulate Florida on a great year and good game, and we're just looking forward to the post-season beginning Sunday night (with the selection show)."

The title is the second in a row for the Gators and the title appearance marked the fourth in program history for each team.

Alabama got off to a good start, plating two runs in the first inning. The Crimson Tide loaded the bases against SEC Pitcher of the Year Stacey Nelson and took advantage. Ashley Holcombe took an inside screwball off the leg to bring home Lauren Parker, who reached on a walk. Then with Amanda Locke at the plate Nelson threw a wild pitch that plated Charlotte Morgan from third.

Florida quickly answered in somewhat the same fashion. After loading the bases on a walk and two hit batters, Kelsey Bruder drew a walk to bring home Aja Paculba. Meghan Bush then emptied the bases on a 3-2 count with a grand slam over the left field wall to put the Gators in front 5-2.

Paculba then got the Gators going in the fourth inning with a leadoff triple that bounced away from right fielder Cassandra Reilly-Boccia. Florida coach Tim Walton then called the squeeze play that was executed by Tiffany DeFelice on a bunt that trickled in front of Kelsi Dunne.

Kelsey Bruder then drove home pinch runner Brooke Johnson from first on a double to the left centerfield wall to give the Gators a 7-2 lead in the fourth. Johnson pinch ran for Francesca Enea, who was hit for the third time in the game.

Morgan, the SEC Player of the Year, then put a charge into her fifth inning at bat when she took Nelson well over the scoreboard in left centerfield to move Alabama to a 7-3 deficit. The home run is the first Nelson has allowed all season.

Florida extended its lead in the sixth inning when Bruder came through once again, driving in DeFelice from second on a single up the middle. DeFelice reached base to start the inning on a throwing error by Kellie Eubanks.

Kendall Dawson, who came in for Holcombe in the sixth inning knocked in a run in her first at bat of the game. With Parker on third the newcomer placed a bloop shot over the head of Nelson. The Crimson Tide scored its final run of the contest when Amanda Locke hit a sharp ground ball to the left side that plated Morgan on a hook slide past UF catcher Kristina Hilberth.

Morgan led Alabama at the plate with two hits and three runs. Parker batted 1-for-3 with two RBI. Bruder paced Florida at the plate with two hits and three RBI.

Nelson improved to 35-3 on the season after allowing five runs while striking out eight. Dunne (24-3) was tagged with the loss after allowing eight runs, seven earned with five punchouts in 5 1/3 innings.

Morgan, Parker and Holcombe were named to the SEC All-Tournament team. The all-tournament selection is the second in a row for Morgan.

Alabama will now wait for the NCAA Selection Show to determine its postseason fate. The Crimson Tide will host a selection show party on Sunday, May 10 at the Alabama Soccer Stadium club house. Alabama is in line to make its 11th straight NCAA Tournament appearance.

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