Softball takes thriller to win tourney

The crowd got every bit of its money's worth at the UA Softball Complex as the No. 22 ranked (USA Today/NFCA) Crimson Tide softball team (10-5) and the Southern Illinois University Salukis (8-1) went 11 innings, before the Tide finally broke through for a 3-1 victory.

Both teams fought to a scoreless tie through the first nine innings.

In the top of the 10th inning the international tie-breaker was brought into play wherein the player that made the last out in the previous inning was placed on second base to start the inning. Lacy Prejean started off on second in the top of the tenth and went to third on a sacrifice by Angela Johnson. Staci Ramsey then hit a grounder to the right side to score Prejean for the first run of the game and a 1-0 Alabama lead.

Southern Illinois answered in the bottom of the inning when Haley Viefhaus laid down a sacrifice that scored Maria Damico tying the game at 1-1.

In the top of the 11th, Dominique Accetturo started off at second and took third on an Emily Currie sacrifice. Jennifer Reach grounded out to third for the second out of the inning and after Jaclyn Wilkins was hit in the head with a pitch, Jackie McClain responded hitting a line drive back up the middle to score Accetturo and send Wilkins to third. Stephanie VanBrakle, who was the starting pitcher for the Tide, then singled to centerfield scoring Wilkins and making it a 3-1 Tide lead.

Adie Viefhaus was placed on second in the bottom of the 11th inning. Then, following a walk to Katie Jordan, Bama reliever Erin Wright got the next three batters to foul out and strike out twice to end the game, much to the delight of the crowd of 500 plus fans.

Wright picked up the win in the championship going 4.2 innings in relief allowing only one hit while striking out eight batters. VanBrakle started the game and threw 6.1 innings of shutout ball allowing only two hits and striking out nine batters. She also went 3-5 at the plate with a RBI.

"That's the Stephanie VanBrakle I saw in high school and summer ball," said Alabama Head Coach Patrick Murphy. "She told us earlier in the day that she was ready and would give a good effort and throw a good game and she did just that."

McClain was selected the tournament MVP going 8-14 (.571) with a double, triple, four RBI, three runs scored and four walks. She collected the game-winning RBI in the championship game and in the Tide's win over Winthrop earlier in the tournament.

Despite the cool temperatures, cloudy skies and rainy weather, hundreds of fans ventured out to the tournament the entire weekend.

"We were all so thankful for the support we received this weekend," said Murphy. "There were so many things going on all over campus and with the predicted forecast, to have so many people out there cheering us on was a real honor. The last game felt like it was a conference tournament game or a regional tournament."

The all-tournament team consisted of Shelly Floyd from Western Kentucky, Janiva Willis and Shahna Ashard of Winthrop, Jenny Doehring, Katie Jordan and Amy Harre of Southern Illinois and Jennifer Reach, Angela Johnson, Stephanie VanBrakle and McClain from Alabama.

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