Alabama softball trailed twice in Wednesday’s opening game of the SEC Tournament against Auburn but the Crimson Tide used a fifth-inning rally and some clutch bullpen pitching down the stretch to ultimately claim the 6-4 comeback victory.

Alabama (33-17) and Auburn (40-14) each scored two runs in the first inning, with the Tide’s runs coming off a two-run home run from sophomore Bailey Hemphill. A two-run home run in the top of the fifth gave the Tigers a 4-2 lead but Alabama immediately answered with three in the bottom of the fifth and an insurance run in the sixth to take the score to its final tally, 6-4.

In addition to Hemphill, sophomore Elissa Brown also drove in a pair of runs on a game-tying double in the fifth inning. Junior Merris Schroder went 2-for-3 batting eighth, driving in the final run of the day for Alabama with an RBI single in the sixth. Senior Alexis Osorio started the game but exited the game after Auburn took a 4-2 lead. Freshman Madison Preston (7-5) threw 2.0 shutout innings in relief to earn the win while Osorio eventually re-entered to secure the final two outs and earn her fifth save of the season.

Auburn threatened early in the game, loading the bases with a pair of walks and a two-out fielding error. Alyssa Rivera made the Tide pay for the error, driving in a pair of unearned runs on a single through the right side to give the Tigers the early 2-0 lead. With two out in the bottom of the first, freshman Kaylee Tow drew a walk and set up Hemphill for a line-drive home run to tie the game up at 2-2.

Still tied in the top of the fifth, Auburn drew a leadoff walk before Casey McCrackin sent a two-run home run over the fence in center field as the Tigers pulled ahead, 4-2. After back-to-back walks, Alabama turned to Preston in relief with two on and nobody out. The lefty did her job out of the bullpen, posting three-straight outs to end the half-inning.

Junior Reagan Dykes led off the bottom of the fifth with a double in the gap and Schroder followed with a single up the middle to put runners at the corners for Alabama. That ended Kaylee Carlson’s outing in the circle as Makayla Martin entered in relief. Junior pinch-hitter Caroline Hardy fought through an eight-pitch at-bat to load the bases and turn it back to the top of the order. A wild pitch moved all three runners up 60 feet to score a run and cut the deficit to 4-3 before Brown ripped a hard-hit double off the diving shortstop’s glove to drive in two and give Alabama the 5-4 lead.

Auburn stranded a pair in scoring position in the top of the sixth and senior Sydney Booker was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom half of the inning. Dykes laid down a great sacrifice bunt in the next at-bat but the throw pulled the first baseman off the bag as she was safe on first following the error. With freshman KB Sides pinch-running at first, a wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position and Schroder dropped a single into no-man’s land to score Booker from third and make it 6-4. Sides was caught in a rundown between second and third for out number one and a pair of groundouts ended the inning as the Tide took a two-run lead to the top of the seventh.

Following a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh, junior Courtney Gettins entered to pitch for Alabama in the save situation. A single to left put two on for Auburn and both moved into scoring position on a passed ball. After a first-pitch ball in the next at-bat, Alabama re-entered its original starter Osorio. A fly ball in foul territory went for out number two but a walk in the next at-bat loaded the bases. Osorio bounced back with her seventh strikeout of the game to end it and earn the save as Alabama defeated Auburn, 6-4.

Next up, Alabama advances to play top-seed Florida (47-8, 20-4 SEC) Thursday, May 10 at 6:30 p.m. CT live on the SEC Network.

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