Despite taking a 4-0 lead in the first inning, the Crimson Tide were unable to keep the Volunteer bats at bay, giving up three home runs in a 7-6 loss to No. 1 seed Tennessee in the SEC Championship.
“We have to do better at keeping the ball in the park and finishing off lineups when you get two outs,” Alabama Head Coach Patrick Murphy said.
Tennessee’s first home run came in the bottom of the first with the bases loaded and two outs. Lair Beautae sent the first pitch she saw over the wall in left-center field to tie up the game.
The Volunteers would not trail for the rest of the game.
The next home run came in the bottom of the second once again with two outs. The top home run hitter, Kiki Milloy, sent a hanging breaking ball completely out of the stadium to take the lead 5-4. Then in the bottom of the fourth with two outs Katie Taylor connected for just her third home run of the year to increase the lead to 7-4.
Alabama would answer back in the top of the fifth inning with a two-run home run of their own from Ashley Prange to cut the deficit to just one.
This is only the fifth time in SEC play that the Crimson Tide has scored six or more runs. However, they have accomplished the feat in three of their last six games.
“We’ve seen glimpses of it all season and we’re putting it all together and getting everybody hot at the right time,” Alabama outfielder Jenna Johnson said. “We’re going to continue to carry that on into the postseason and learn to roll with the punches.”
The offense will need to continue the trend if their ace pitcher Montana Fouts is unable to play going forward.
Fouts suffered a lower-body injury in the quarterfinal win over tournament host Arkansas Thursday night and is scheduled to see a doctor in Tuscaloosa on Monday.
If cleared, the Alabama coaching staff will then determine how soon and how long they will allow Fouts to pitch. If the nation’s strikeout leader is not cleared, the Tide will turn to their remaining rotation of Alex Salter, Jaala Torrence and Lauren Esman to perform well enough to give the offense a chance.
“They made some really good pitches against some good hitters and I think they should be confident heading into the next weekend,” Murphy said.
The Crimson Tide will find out their next opponents during the NCAA Softball Selection Show on ESPN2 Sunday night.
Follow Adam Hambright on Twitter @adamhambright.