By (Ben Boynton)

The final game before SEC play starts for the Crimson Tide didn’t quite go the way coach Patrick Murphy wanted it to, but his team still got the 1-0 win over the Valparaiso Crusaders.

“You’ve got to give credit to their kid [pitcher Ashlyn Montgomery], she pitched a good game,” Murphy said. “We didn’t strike out any, we walked twice, but it was like ‘Groundhog Day’, a couple of our hitters did the same thing three times and we need to do a better job of making the adjustment. We’ve got to do better offensively.”

The Crimson Tide put up a run in the first inning as freshman center fielder Elissa Brown scored on a fielding error during an at bat by freshman designated player Bailey Hemphill. That run would prove to be the only scoring in the game, as neither offense could get anything going. The teams each put up four hits apiece.

“Offense-wise, we’re going to have to step up and get after these teams and not wait on ‘Oh man, if this run scores now we’re going to have to come back and attack’,” junior second baseman Demi Turner said. “We’re going to have get on it in the first or second inning like I’ve been kind of talking about and just keep it rolling from there so we don’t have to stretch our pitchers out every game.”

Senior pitcher Sydney Littlejohn set a new career high in strikeouts with 13, one start after tying her previous career high of 11.

“Between her and [junior pitcher] Lexie [Osorio] they’re having a career year,” Murphy said. “Thank God we’ve got great pitching because it saved the day.”

She contained the Crusaders, though the visiting team managed to put runners on second and third with no outs in the sixth inning. Osorio, who struck out 18 in Alabama’s win over Loyola-Chicago Tuesday night, warmed up in the bullpen but Murphy said he never seriously considered making the change.

“She’s been through it, and I figured she’d do it,” Murphy said. “Maybe in the seventh if something had happened, but not that inning. I think the matchups were good for her; that’s why we kept her in there.”

The lead runner was put out on a steal attempt, Littlejohn struck out the next batter, and Turner made a running play down the right field line to get the third out and end the threat.

“I just tell Syd and our pitchers all the time that if you just leave it here in the park I’ve got your back, no matter where it is in my area, I’m going to get your back,” Turner said. “Hit it to me so I can help our pitchers…I thought I was going to have to lay out for it…I saw it and I was there.”

The SEC regular season schedule is next up for the Crimson Tide, with the Arkansas Razorbacks coming to TuscaloosaFriday for a three-game series over the weekend. Littlejohn said the close game against the Crusaders is good preparation for contested SEC games.

“We’re going to be put into those situations coming up in SECs,” Littlejohn said. “In a way it was good practice to be in that situation and to know that I can trust [sophomore catcher] Reagan [Dykes] behind the plate, I can trust my defense, I can trust whoever it is out there and that they can trust me as well.”

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Source:: The Crimson White Sports