Alabama Softball Guts Out 7-5 Win Over Mississippi State at SEC Tournament
Alabama softball gutted out a hard fought back-and-forth victory on the opening day of the 2016 SEC Tournament Wednesday night, defeating Mississippi State 7-5.
Alabama (46-11) fell behind early in the top of the first to Mississippi State (26-31) but rallied to score five in the bottom half of the inning and hold the lead the rest of the way. The Crimson Tide benefitted from some sloppy defense by the Bulldogs, who committed five errors that ultimately accounted for three unearned runs.
All nine of the Tide’s offensive starters reached base safely at least once in the game, including four walks by Haylie McCleney which sets a new SEC Tournament record and ties a school record. Chandler Dare went 2-3 out of the two-hole and Leona Lafaele drove in three of the team’s runs on a big three-run homer in the first inning. Tide starter Alexis Osorio (15-6) threw a career-high 153 pitches as she gutted out her 14th complete game of the season.
Mississippi State leadoff hitter Loryn Nichols started the top of the first with an infield single, advancing to second on a stolen base and moving to third on a sacrifice bunt. Kayla Winkfield followed with a ground ball to Sydney Booker, who fired home in time for Reagan Dykes to tag out Nichols at the plate trying to score, putting one on with two outs. Mackenzie Toler cleared the bases with a two-run home run in the next at-bat before a called strikeout ended the half-inning with the Bulldogs on top 2-0.
McCleney led off the bottom half of the first with a walk and Dare followed with an infield single while a throwing error on the play allowed McCleney to move up to third. Lafaele crushed the fourth pitch of her at-bat to the opposite field, quickly giving Alabama a 3-2 lead on the three-run homer.
After a walk to Reagan Dykes, Mississippi State pulled Silkwood and turned to its bullpen with Holly Ward entering to pitch with still nobody out in the bottom of the first. On the first pitch of her at-bat, Marisa Runyon scorched a line drive back at Ward, who fielded the ball and fired to first for a double play. Sydney Booker reached on a fielding error to extend the inning and the Tide made the Bulldogs pay for the error, with Andrea Hawkins reaching on an infield single and Peyton Grantham driving in both with a two-run double, stretching the lead to 5-2 before a groundout ended the five-run inning.
Winkfield cut the lead to 5-3 with an RBI double in the top of the third and Caroline Seitz made it a one-run game with her own RBI double later in the inning. Defensive miscues hurt the Bulldogs in the bottom of the third, with two errors and a wild pitch putting runners at the corners with one out. The third baseman dropped a popup but threw to second for a force out to save an error before Kallie Case followed with an RBI double over the left fielder’s head to make it 6-4. McCleney would draw her third walk of the day to load the bases but a force out at home ended the inning with Alabama in front by two through three innings.
With a runner at first and two out in the top of the fifth, Toler hit a long single into the outfield to put runners at the corners and an errant throw on the play allowed the runner at third to score, making it a 6-5 game. With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fourth, Dare dropped an RBI single into left-center, moving everyone up 60 feet on the RBI single to make it 7-5.
Alabama couldn’t add any insurance to its two-run lead in the sixth and the Bulldog would get the tying run on base, but Osorio’s eighth strikeout of the day ended the game as Alabama held on to win, 7-5.
With the win, Alabama will advance and play fourth-seeded Auburn (46-9) on Thursday, May 12 at 6:30 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.