Alabama Softball Takes Two From SC

It was a beautiful day for softball in Tuscaloosa, both weather and results-wise. Alabama, ranked fifth by and eighth by USA Today, took a pair from the South Carolina Gamecocks, 8-0 in five innings and 8-2 in seven. Alabama raised its record to 21-7, 5-2 SEC, while the struggling visitors fell to 9-18, 0-9. The series concludes Sunday at 1 p.m. CT, with FSN set to televise.

GAME ONE: After Alabama shortstop Whitney Larsen reached on an error to open the home half of the second inning, third sacker Alex Blewitt singled up the middle to put runners on first and third. After pinch-runner Lisa Elizondo stole second, first baseman Amanda Locke hit a sacrifice fly to deep left that plated Larsen for the first run of the game.

With two gone in the third, Cassie Reilly-Boccia singled and Charlotte Morgan walked. Larsen then blasted a 2-1 offering from Kelsey Goodwin deep over the wall in right center for a 4-0 Tide lead. In the fourth, freshman Kayla Braud doubled in Jennifer Fenton with two outs. Cassie Reilly-Boccia pounded a homer to right and the Tide led 7-0. Singles by Locke and Larsen in the fifth led to pinch-hitter Olivia Gibson lone at bat of game one. Gibson made the most of it, driving in Larsen with run no. 8 and ending the game on the run rule.

Kelsi Dunne was in vintage form in the circle, She upped her record to 10-4 on the season while striking out 11. Dunne gave up three hits and no walks, At one point she struck out seven straight.

"I thought Kelsi threw very well," said Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy. "She's starting to really get on a roll. She's pitched very well the past four or five games in a row. She's started getting ahead (of hitters), and all her pitches are working."

GAME TWO: Freshman Lauren Sewell got the start in the circle for the Tide. Sewell is still perfect record-wise at 6-0. She went five innings, and gave up one hit and one run, while notching six strikeouts against two walks. When he woke up Saturday, Murphy was not planning on giving Sewell her first SEC start.

"Charlotte (Morgan) wasn't feeling well," said Murphy, "but for Sewell, that's the second straight one-hitter for her. Her only issue is getting herself in trouble. She's getting better and better, and her control is getting there."

Bama wasted no time in cracking the scoring column. With runners at the corners and no outs in the first, the always-dangerous Charlotte Morgan sent a bomb that exploded off the scoreboard in left center for a 3-0 Tide lead.

In the fourth, Sewell got an infield hit, and pinch-runner Keima Davis stole second. With two gone, Braud tripled to left center plating Davis. The speedster Braud then scored on a wild pitch on ball four to Reilly-Boccia. Bama took a 5-1 lead to the fifth.

Blewitt homered in the fifth, but Bama was not finished. With two gone and two in scoring position, Jackey Branham got her first career hit with a two-RBI double to left center. The Tide came up a run short in the frame from the run rule requirement of an eight-run lead, and headed to the sixth up 8-1.

After Carolina got a run off relief pitcher Locke in the sixth, the sophomore settled down and struck out the side in the seventh.

NOTES/ANECDOTES: Murphy notched his 600th win at Bama in game two.

South Carolina center fielder Adele Voight was one year behind former Tide star Brittney Rogers at Dacula (Ga.) high school. Voight went 2-4 with a walk in the doubleheader. It was just last year that discovered that Rogers is the great niece of former Carolina and NFL star George Rogers, a Heisman winner during his days in Columbia.

Nearly as entertaining as game one itself (if not more) was watching Alabama Assistant Director of Media Relations Skip Powers frantically viewing his alma mater, tenth-seeded St Mary's, dispatch No. 2 seed Villanova 75-68 on the press box TV in round two of the NCAA basketball tournament. St Mary's is in California, something I did not know until I asked Skip. The Gaels appear to be this year's Cinderella squad.

Murphy also had more than a passing interest in a televised tourney game. He graduated from Northern Iowa, which led Kansas in the first half.

Jessica Smith, a senior from Pell City, was honored pre-game for her contributions to the program. The former walk-on got a Greg Cage like obligatory start in game one, and got a hit in her second at bat. She played flawlessly in left, as well. Blewitt was also honored Saturday between games, though the original plan was for Sunday to be her day. Questionable weather conditions caused the dual ceremonies. Blewitt finished the day 4-7 with a homer, an RBI, and a run scored.

Mired in a 2-for-27 slump, Northport sophomore Jazlyn Lunceford only got one at bat Saturday, as a pinch-hitter in game two, when she struck out. Lunceford had started 22 of the Tide's 26 contests before Saturday.

Two Alabama players bring back memories of former great Major Leaguers, one real and one fictional. Braud is a dynamic leadoff hitter with lots of speed, but in the field the second baseman begs comparisons of former Los Angeles Dodger star Steve Sax. Every throw to first is an adventure. For that reason, Murphy inserts freshman Jackey Branham late in games for defense. Braud, a high school shortstop, said, "I'm still learning the position. I've never played second before. I've been working hard on (the new throw)." Meanwhile, Reilly-Boccia has one of the, if not the, sweetest swings in the SEC, bringing back memories of former New York Knights outfielder Roy Hobbs, the character played by Robert Redford in the movie "The Natural."

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