TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (UA Athletics) - Alabama won its opening game at the Tuscaloosa Regional Friday night over Alabama State, 8-2, to advance to the winner’s bracket.
The win marked Alabama’s (53-7) 38th-straight in NCAA Regional play, a streak stretching back to 2007. Alabama State (24-24) took the first lead of the day with a run in the top of the first before the Crimson Tide responded with eight unanswered, including a three-run home run from sophomore Kaylee Tow. The Lady Hornets scratched a run across in the top of the seventh but it was too little, too late as Alabama held on to win by six.
Junior Elissa Brown set the tone at the leadoff spot, going 2-for-2 with a walk, two stolen bases and three runs scored. Sophomore KB Sides also notched a pair of runs and scored three times batting behind Brown and Tow’s home run was part of a 2-for-4 day in the four-hole. Junior Bailey Hemphill, batting cleanup, drew a walk to extend her reached-base streak to 32 games, the fifth-longest in UA history. In the circle, junior Krystal Goodman (11-0) earned the win to remain undefeated, throwing 5.2 innings with senior Courtney Gettins tossing 1.1 relief innings behind her.
Alabama State strung together three-straight singles to load the bases with one out in the top of the first, forcing an early meeting in the circle for Alabama. A fly ball to right allowed the runner at third to tag up and score on the sacrifice fly before a 4-3 groundout ended the half-inning and limited the damage to one run. Alabama also loaded the bases with one out in its half of the inning, with back-to-back singles from seniors Merris Schroder and Reagan Dykes giving the Tide the 2-1 lead. An RBI groundout tacked on another and put two in scoring position with two out before a walk loaded the bases yet again, but a groundout prevented Alabama from increasing its lead past 3-1.
Brown led off the second inning with a walk and stole second, Sides drilled a double off the left-field wall to bring her home and make it a 4-1 game. Some heads-up baserunning from Sides on a check-swing groundout allowed her to score all the way from second and make it 5-1.
Brown chopped an infield single to lead off the bottom of the first and then hustled all the way to third on a hit-and-run off the bat of Sides, who then stole second in the next at-bat to put two in scoring position with nobody out. Tow blasted a three-run home run over the left field wall to swell the lead to 8-1.
For the second-straight inning, the Lady Hornets got a runner on third base following a one-out double and a fielding error. After a groundout for out number two, the runner broke for home but a quick throw from Hemphill at first a good swipe tag from Dykes at the plate caught her to cap the inning-ending 5-3-2 double play.
Freshman Skylar Wallace dropped a two-out single into left field in the bottom of the fifth, standing at first as the potential game-ending run. After stealing second on the first pitch of the next at-bat, junior Taylor Clark stepped in as the pinch-hitter. She drew the walk to put two on base and Brown re-entered to run at first but a popup ended the inning as it remained a seven-run game heading to the sixth.
Alabama loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, putting the potential game-ending run 60 feet away, but back-to-back popups ended the inning and sent it to the seventh. Despite loading the bases in the top of the seventh and scoring a run, the deficit proved too large for Alabama State to overcome as the Tide held on to win, 8-2.