Bama Softball Gets Easy Win

Talk about making up for lost time. Third-ranked Alabama scored eight runs in the bottom of the first en route to a run-rule, 12-3 win in 4.5 innings over Mississippi Valley in round one of the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional at the UA Softball Complex.

"I loved the way we started. I was really happy with the start, especially the first inning," said Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy. "I don't think it could have been a better start for us.

"We always say, ‘don't waste an at-bat.' I don't think anybody did."

"I think it's important for every team to get momentum on their side. We wanted to set the tone early in the game and then follow through on it the rest of the game," said second baseman Lauren Parker.

"Execution is a big part of the game."

Watching the first inning was like watching an execution. A slow one.

After Texas needed nine innings to dispatch Chattanooga 1-0, the Tide and Delta Devilettes finally took the field 37 minutes late for a scheduled 6 p.m. game.

Charlotte Morgan retired the only six batters she faced. Meanwhile, the Tide bats went to work. Brittany Rogers bunted her way on to start the bottom of the first, and stole second on a disputed call. Parker laid down a bunt with the intent to move Rogers to third, and did so, but Parker beat the throw to first for a hit. After Parker stole second without a throw, Kelley Montalvo hit a sacrifice fly to short center for a 1-0 lead.

SEC Player of the Year Morgan singled to center scoring Parker, and a poor throw by Rashundra Brass allowed Morgan to go all the way to third. All-Region right fielder Cassie Reilly-Boccia drove in Morgan for a 3-0 lead.

After All-Region catcher Holcombe and red shirt freshman first sacker Amanda Locke drew walks, senior shortstop Kellie Eubanks hit a ground ball that third baseman Ashley Lawrence threw wide to home, allowing Reilly-Boccia and Holcombe to score for a 5-0 lead with still one out.

Exit pitcher Lauren Derting, and enter reliever Brittany Franklin.

Whitney Larsen drove in a pair on a hit just past second and was credited with a triple when two outfielders whiffed. A wild pitch by Franklin brought in Larsen, and once again leadoff hitter Rogers came up. This time the All-Region speedster reached on an error before Parker grounded out. When Montalvo grounded out, the Tide had a 8-0 lead it would not relinquish.

Said Mississippi Valley coach Lee Smith, "We just got off to a slow start and had a bad first inning. That's about it. We just didn't make a few plays, and (Alabama) got off to a good start.

"Without a doubt, it's a great lineup, one through nine. You're facing a College World Series lineup."

Sensing a chance to rest Morgan, Murphy let Locke enter the pitcher's circle. Locke finished the game and gave up three runs, but none were earned due to a misplayed fly ball in left by Larsen.

"We had said we were going to rest (Morgan) if we got some runs early," said Murphy. " I think Amanda (Locke) did okay, with six strikeouts."

Locke had a feeling she might get to pitch. "'Murph' told me there was a possibility I would be throwing," she said. "It felt really cool to be out there getting the opportunity. It's my first time in a post-season game. It's exciting."

A solo shot by Parker and a two-run blast by Reilly Boccia closed out Bama's scoring, but the Delta Devilettes managed to tack on three runs in the top of the fifth.

Alabama upped it's record to 48-9 and will face Texas (39-18 ) Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The winner of that game will be off until Sunday, and avoid the dreaded loser's bracket.

Murphy will start ace Kelsi Dunne (24-3, 1.45 ERA), while Longhorns coach Connie Clark will counter with Brittany Barnhill (25-13, 2.67). Barnhill got the win in the circle and drove in the winning (and only) run in Texas' win over Chattanooga.

"It'll be a good game," said Murphy, ever the master of the understatement. Due to a coin flip already done, Alabama will be the visiting team in that contest.

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