By: Nicholas Elliot

CLEARWATER, Fl- Alabama Softball played two games today in the 2023 TaxAct Clearwater Invitational against 20 UCF Knights and the Indiana Hoosiers. The team defeated UCF in walk-off comeback fashion by a score of 6-5. The Tide won in the second game of the day in dominant fashion in five innings by a score of 10-0 to the Indiana Hoosiers.

In the first game of the day against number 20 UCF Knights Jaala Torrence got the ball in the circle in her second start of the season and got a quick one-two-three inning to start off the ball game. The Tide had early opportunities to strike first with a double from Ally Shipman to set up two runners in scoring position, but the Tide was not able to take the lead early.

Torrence continued her efficient start with three early strikeouts but a nine-hole-hitter for the Knights Olivia Elliott hit a two-out solo homer to right-center to make it 1-0 for the Knights in the top of the third. The Knights were not done and continued to get it done with two outs as Jasmine Williams hits a double to center and Kennedy Searcy hits a single to bring home Williams to make it 2-0 for the Knights. 

The Knights were not done, however, adding another solo home run in the top of the fourth from Savannah Adams to extend the lead to 3-0. Torrence, who was very efficient to start the game, but got beat by two out mistakes got pulled for Alex Salter as her day was over.

The Knights continued to get on base on this Bama pitching staff as UCF pitcher Sarah Willis added to the Knights’ lead with a fielder’s choice to extend the lead to 4-0. The Tide responded imminently, having their own two out magic as Emma Broadfoot got a single followed by a two-run home run to center from Kali Heivilin to cut the deficit in half to 4-2 in favor of the Knights. The Tide were able to knock Willis out of the ball game, and she was replaced by Angelina Devoe.

The Tide’s patient approach at the plate to keep the inning rolling as Ashley Prange was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to cut the lead to 4-3, and that caused the Knights to go to the bullpen once more with Kaitlyn Felton. The Tide still was not finished with this inning as Ally Shipman gets a huge two-out single to give Alabama the lead having a five-run surge in the bottom of the fourth to take a 5-4 lead.

The offensive firepower continued into the top of the fifth as the Knights were able to tie the game back as Jada Cody hit a solo homer to center to tie the game back up at 5-5. Salter is replaced by Montana Fouts. Fouts entered the ballgame and silenced the Knights with two strikeouts to end the inning and keep it tied at five.

Both teams’ offenses cooled off in the late innings as neither team was able to take the lead as the game headed to extra innings.

In extras, a runner was put on second for both teams under the international tie-breaker rule. Fouts continued to be huge for the Tide pitching staff, striking out two giving the Tide a chance to walk it off. In the bottom half of the eighth the Tide were able to advance Jenna Johnson to third, and Kristen White was the hero as she hit a single to win the game 6-5 in a thriller in Clearwater. 

Torrence went 3.0 innings tallying three-K allowing three ER on four hits on 40 pitches. Salter went 1.1 innings getting two-K on two hits allowing two-ER. Fouts, who shut things down in extras and recorded the win, went 3.2 innings allowing no hits on seven-K on 49 pitches. The Tide’s offense was led by Shipman, who went 2/4 with a double and single with two-RBI, Heivilin went 1/4 with a huge two-run home run. 

 In the second game of the day Alabama faced the Indiana Hoosiers. Lauren Esman got the start in the circle for the Tide. Alabama was the road team and got things started quickly with a walk from Kenleigh Cahalan, who scored off a Jenna Johnson single in the top of the first to take a 1-0 lead.

The Tide showed no signs of slowing down in the top of the seconds getting two singles from Marlie Giles and Kristen White, who was hit in by a Cahalan two out double down the right field line to extend the lead to 3-0. 

The Tide continued to put up runs in the top of the third and IU pitcher Heather Johnson who was responsible for three runs was taken out for Sophie Kleiman. No matter the pitcher it did not matter to the Tide as they continued hitting as Ally Shipman hit a single, and as well as Johnson. Emma Broadfoot sent Shipman home off a deep sacrifice fly to left to get the lead to 4-0 in favor of the Tide. Alabama continued to produce runs in the third as Jordan Stephens hit a single, scoring Johnson to make it 5-0. Moments later, Giles recorded her second single of the game scoring Stephens, and the Tide were up 6-0. The Hoosiers cut into the deficit imminently by loading up the bases with two singles and a HBP. Lauren Esman strikes out two and then Stephens makes a bigtime web-gem to rob the Hoosiers of scoring two to three runs to cut into the deficit. 

Bama’s defense was huge. Kristen White robbed the Hoosiers of a solo home run by running into the wall. Esman has also been very efficient in her outing, everything seemed to be clicking for the Tide in this one. The Tide were not done scoring runs as Abby Duchscherer recorded a pinch hit double to score Broadfoot to make it 7-0. Stephens doubled to right center to score Duchscherer to make it 8-0. The Tide closed out the ballgame early with a 60-pitch shutout from Lauren Esman. 

Esman went 5.0 innings allowing three-hits on four-Ks. Marlie Giles led the way going 3/3 with three singles with 1 RBI. Stephens went 2/3 with a double and single along with two-RBI. Shipman also went 2/3 with a double. 

The Tide move to 5-2 on the year and close out the 2023 TaxAct Clearwater Invitational on Sunday against Florida State at 4 central on ESPN.