Rhoads Stadium was the site of a record-setting night for the Alabama Crimson Tide as the No. 5 team in the nation won its first two games in SEC play against the Missouri Tigers Friday evening.
The first matchup showcased each team’s defense in a pitching duel that resulted in a 3-1 victory for the Crimson Tide. Montana Fouts racked up the victory with seven strikeouts to secure head coach Patrick Murphy’s record 400th SEC win.
The second game was an offensive battle as Alabama, with the help of three home runs, climbed back from a 7-0 deficit through one and a half innings to win 14-8.
“It starts with how much we love each other,” sophomore infielder Kaylee Tow said. “A team doesn’t fight for each other like we did if they don’t love each other.”
The Tigers began the game with a ferocious series of at-bats against senior pitcher Courtney Gettins. Gettins allowed six earned runs in her only inning in the circle as Missouri found three RBI hits to left field to account for five runs. The sixth came after a short grounder from Abby George hopped over junior relief pitcher Sarah Cornell.
“They’ve got good athletes and that’s the SEC right there, up and down, all 13 teams can get you at any time,” Murphy said.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Crimson Tide began to feel the bat come alive as Merris Schroder blasted a triple to the right-field wall that brought Clair Jenkins in from first. Elissa Brown followed with an RBI of her own, sending Schroder home with a hop over pitcher Cassie Gasper.
“It was just getting one at a time,” Tow said.
Missouri’s final score came at the top of the third as freshman pinch hitter Kendyll Bailey hit a sacrifice fly to center field which brought in Hatti Moore.
It was all Alabama for the remainder of the game.
Bailey Hemphill began the comeback with a solo home run to left in the third.
Jenkins followed with a two-run homer of her own to trim the lead down to 8-5. Missouri made its first pitching change afterward relieving Gasper for sophomore Summer Shockley. Elissa Brown quickly took advantage with an RBI triple to center field. Then Tow stared down a 3-2 count and knocked a two-run home run over center to tie the game at 8-8.
“I was just trying to find any way that I could to score,” Tow said.
Murphy said he told his team during the comeback “We can’t play yo-yo softball, they score – we score – they score – we score, that’s not gonna work.”
His team headed his words as Cornell shutout the Tigers offense for the final four innings, finishing with three strikeouts and just one earned run on eight hits.
“Nobody gave up,” Murphy said. “I think everybody felt like we could do it.”
KB Sides and Tow both hit singles that resulted in three RBIs collectively in the fifth inning. Afterward, Maddie Morgan hit an RBI single to deep left to bring in freshman pinch hitter Kloyee Anderson followed by Schroder’s two-RBI triple to deep right field to close out the high scoring affair.
Murphy said Thursday’s batting practice was the best of the year and played a big factor into the comeback. He said he told his team afterward, “If you hit a fourth as well this weekend, we’ll be fine.” The Crimson Tide did just that with 12 hits and 12 RBIs on 28 at-bats.
“It just shows everyone in the SEC, all the conferences, that we’re not out of the game, so you can’t count us out of anything,” said junior shortstop Clair Jenkins. “We’re always going to fight, we’re always going to come back and we’re always going to keep our foot on the gas.”
(Photo Courtesy The Crimson White)