Softball undefeated in Leadoff Classic

COLUMBUS, GA-The No. 17 ranked (USA Today/NFCA) Alabama softball team managed yet another come from behind victory as they rallied from a 4-0 deficit to score seven runs with two outs in the top of the seventh inning to defeat the No. 23 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish 7-4 at the NFCA Leadoff Classic.

Stephanie VanBrakle led off the seventh inning with a single and reached second when Deasy Phillips laid down a bunt and VanBrakle slid into to second before the throw arrived while Phillips stood at first. Ashley Courtney popped out to third but Jackie McClain hit her first home run of the season, a three-run shot to centerfield to cut the Irish lead to 4-3. Lacy Prejean followed with a walk and Jackie Wilkins hit her first home run of the season to push the Tide ahead 5-4. Jennifer Reach followed with a double to left field and scored on an Angela Johnson double to right centerfield for a 6-4 lead. VanBrakle then singled up the middle scoring Johnson for her second hit of the inning and a 7-4 lead.

Notre Dame took an early lead when catcher Mallorie Lenn hit a pop up into shallow centerfield that shortshop Jennifer Reach dropped allowing second baseman Alexis Madrid to score from second for a 1-0 Fighting Irish lead in the bottom of the first inning.

Notre Dame added to its lead in the bottom of the fourth when with runners on second and third and one out Kellie Middleton grounded out to short but Andria Bledsoe came in to score to push the lead to 2-0. Megan Ciolli followed with a double to left centerfield scoring Sara Schoonaert for a 3-0 lead.

Alabama threatened in the top of the fifth when Angela Johnson singled through the left side followed by a double right field from VanBrakle. However, a strikeout, a popout and a line out to third got the Irish out of the inning without any damage.

Notre Dame added another run in the bottom of the fifth inning on a single up the middle for a 4-0 Irish lead.

McClain finished the day 3-4 with a home run, double and single and three RBI. She finished the tournament going 5-11 (.455) with a home run and six RBI. For her efforts she was named to the all-tournament team.

The Tide finished the tournament tied for first with a 3-0 record while scoring 16 runs and giving up six for a run differential of 10. However, the UMass Minutewomen had a run differential of 10, but claimed first place due to allowing the fewest runs in the tournament with five.

The Tide's runner-up finish is the second straight year Alabama has finished as runner-up in the tournament.

Erin Wright picked up the win in relief as she came on in the fifth inning and pitched the final three innings to push her record to 7-3.

The Tide will return to action Wednesday when they travel to Hattiesburg, Mississippi for a game with the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Alabama's next home appearance will be this weekend when the team hosts the Crimson Classic beginning on Friday, February 28.

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