Bama advances to SEC Softball semifinal
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Alabama softball saw an early 1-0 lead erased by Texas A&M in the bottom of the seventh, forcing the teams to battle for 10 innings with a solo home run by Bailey Hemphill ultimately providing the difference in the Crimson Tide’s 2-1 victory.
Alabama (42-15) held Texas A&M (42-10) hitless through seven innings before a solo home run by Tori Vidales tied it in the bottom of the seventh, sending the game to extra innings. After two more scoreless innings, Hemphill blasted a two-strike pitch over the fence in center field to give the Tide a 2-1 lead, which ultimately proved final. The 10-inning game is tied for the longest game in SEC Tournament history by innings.
Alexis Osorio (21-7) was masterful in the circle for Alabama, throwing a career-high 10.0 innings while limiting the SEC’s leading power team to just one run on two hits along with an SEC Tournament single-game record 15 strikeouts. The Tide’s first run came off the bat of Marisa Runyon, an RBI single in the top of the third, and Hemphill’s solo home run marked the second long ball of the week for the Tide freshman. Elissa Brown went 2-4 at the top of the order to extend her hitting streak to six games and her reached-base streak to 16 games.
Brown swung at the first pitch of the first inning and sent it back up the middle for a leadoff single, stealing second two pitches later to move into scoring position. Hemphill drew a walk two batters later with two out but a fly ball ended the half-inning and left two on base. Brown and Hemphill were on base with two outs again in the top of the third and Runyon came through with an RBI single into shallow left, scoring Brown from second to give Alabama the 1-0 lead. A single by Reagan Dykes loaded the bases but a force out on the next play ended the half-inning.
Osorio faced the minimum until the bottom of the fifth when Ashley Walters drew a one-out walk for the Aggies’ first baserunner of the day. The threat was erased quickly as a 6-4-3 double play ended the inning and sent it to the sixth with the score still 1-0. Texas A&M got a runner on again in the bottom of the sixth but, after a strikeout, Dykes fired down to Sydney Booker covering second to catch the runner stealing for out number two of the inning. A two-out walk put the potential tying run on base again but Osorio’s ninth strikeout of the day ended the inning and kept it a one-run lead for Alabama.
After two quick outs in the top of the seventh, Samantha Show entered to pitch for the Aggies. A four-pitch walk put Brown at first and she stole second but was left stranded as a strikeout ended the inning with Alabama unable to add to its 1-0 lead. Vidales made the Aggies’ first hit of the day a big one, a game-tying solo home run to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Texas A&M would get another runner on base in the inning but could not push her across, as the teams headed to extra innings now tied at 1-1.
Back-to-back walks with one out put two on base for Alabama in the top of the eighth and a wild pitch moved the pair into scoring position. A popup went for out number two, just shallow enough to prevent pinch-runner Demi Turner from tagging up and scoring from third. A walk to Booker loaded the bases and the Aggies turned to its third pitcher of the day in the tough spot, left-handed freshman Payton McBride. A diving catch down the left-field line by the Aggie shortstop got Texas A&M out of the bases-loaded jam, keeping it a 1-1 game.
With the game still tied in the top of the 10th, Hemphill blasted a solo home run to straightaway center to take a 2-1 lead. Alabama would leave a runner stranded on base in the half-inning, taking a one-run lead to the bottom half. Down to its final out, Kristen Cuyos hit a two-out single to right field but a groundout on the fourth pitch of the next at-bat ended it as Alabama held on to win, 2-1.
Next, Alabama will advance to play the winner of Thursday’s Florida (50-5) vs. Ole Miss (37-18) game in the semifinals Friday at 2 p.m. CT on ESPNU.