Softball upsets No. 4 Cal

COLUMBUS, GA-The No. 17 ranked (USA Today/NFCA) Crimson Tide softball team might be on the verge of earning some sort of comeback nickname as they came from behind once again to defeat No. 4 ranked and defending national champion California 4-2 in round robin play of the 2003 NFCA Leadoff Classic.

The Tide (12-5) has now posted five come-from-behind wins only 17 games into the season. Three of the five wins have come against opponents ranked in the Top 25 including a 4-1 win over then No. 10 CS-Fullerton and today's 4-2 win over California.

The Golden Bears (10-3) jumped on top early when Veronica Nelson turned on a 1-2 pitch from Erin Wright and sent it sailing over the left field fence for a 2-0 Cal lead in the top of the first inning.

Bama finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning. Jackie Wilkins led off with a walk and went to second on a slap sacrifice from Ashley Courtney. Jackie McClain singled through the right side sending Wilkins to second. Emily Currie came on to pinch run for McClain. Lacy Prejean then hit a grounder back to the pitcher who threw home to get Wilkins who was running on the play but the throw was off the mark and Wilkins slid in safely cutting the lead in half while Currie advanced to third on the play. Then with runners at first and third, the Tide put on a double steal and when Prejean slid in safely under the tag, Currie crossed home plate tying the game at 2-2.

Bama claimed the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning taking advantage of Cal miscues. Leah White reached on a fielder's choice and then with one-out the fireworks began. Jennifer Reach hit a ground to third baseman Vicky Galindo who over threw Nelson at first base. White rounded second and headed for third while Reach took off for second. Right fielder Jessica Pamanian, who was backing up the play at first then fielded the loose ball and threw to second however the ball careened off the helmet of Reach and bounced into leftfield. White scored on the wild throw and Reach headed to third and then went home scoring on the play to give the Tide a 4-2 lead.

The two run lead was all Erin Wright needed as she proceeded to put the clamps on the Golden Bear offense.

Wright (6-3) picked up the win going the full seven innings while scattering six hits and striking out six batters.

In the first game of the day with Illinois State, the Tide needed only two and half innings to pull out a 5-0 win over the Redbirds, a game that started on the previous day but was postponed in the fifth inning due to rain. On Friday, Alabama wasted no time making its presence known. Courtney got the ball rolling with a one-out single down the left field line and took second on a ground out by McClain. She then took third on a wild pitch and came in to score on a two-out single from starting pitcher Stephanie VanBrakle, spotting the Tide to a 1-0 lead.

Illinois State threatened in the bottom of the inning putting runners on second and third with no outs, but VanBrakle got the next three batters to ground out to third, strike out and ground out to third to get out of the jam.

The Tide added some insurance in the top of the fifth. Reach hit a line drive single through the left side with one out and went to second when Wilkins was hit by a pitch. Courtney hit a grounder to second baseman Kate Stake who tried to force Wilkins out at the third but her throw was off the mark loading the bases for the Tide with one out. McClain grounded out to second but Reach scored on the play for a 2-0 Bama lead. Audra Rast then unleashed a wild pitch scoring Wilkins and sending Courtney to third for a 3-0 Bama lead.

The clouds then opened and the rains came pouring in and play was finally called at 1:25 EST. Upon resuming the game Saturday afternoon, the Tide added two more runs in the top of the seventh. Reach walked with one out and went to second when Wilkins was hit by a pitch. Courtney singled loading the bases and then McClain doubled to score Reach and Wilkins giving Bama a 5-0 lead.

VanBrakle picked up the win going six innings scattering four hits while striking out nine batters and pushing her record to 2-1 on the season.

Alabama will close out tournament play on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. EST against No. 23 ranked Notre Dame. Due to inclement weather during the weekend, only round robin, pool play will be completed. Tournament champions and runners-up will be determined by record in pool play and then the fewest number of runs allowed.

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