Alabama defeats Arizona, Marshall during Easton Bama BashBy Terrin Waack | 02/27/2016 8:17pm
The No. 4 University of Alabama softball team swept its double-header on Saturday’s portion of the Easton Bama Bash. First, it defeated No. 15 Arizona, 9-1. Then, it followed up with a 4-2 win over Marshall.
Before Alabama took the field, it honored senior Andrea Hawkins. Rather than having one game in dedication of all the seniors on the team, Alabama has it set up that each senior has her own game.
“I love that because yeah, a senior day all together, that’s cool too, but the fact that we get to celebrate them one at a time – I don’t want to know that feeling yet, but I can only imagine – that’s a great feeling, just knowing that it’s your day,” redshirt sophomore Peyton Grantham said.
Arizona put its name on the board first as Mandie Perez left third base to cross home plate after a fielding error by Alabama’s third basemen, Grantham. She redeemed herself as soon as she got her hands on a bat, hitting a double to bring in freshman Reagan Dykes and junior Chandler Dare. After the first inning, not a single Arizona player came close to crossing home plate.
With junior right-hander Sydney Littlejohn (5-1) pitching all six innings for Alabama, she recorded seven strikeouts and her defense prevented a runner from advancing to third.
“She was terrific in the first game,” coach Patrick Murply said. “To beat them 9-1 and hold them to one run, she did a great job. That might have been one of her best performances of her career.”
During the second inning, Alabama pulled ahead, 2-1, as senior Haylie McCleney hit a double to bring in sophomore infielder Demi Turner. McCleney’s bat was hot again during the fourth inning. She hit a home run, running in after Hawkins crossed home plate herself.
The sixth inning finalized Alabama’s first victory of the day. Arizona’s pitcher, Michelle Floyd, walked Leona Lafaele with the bases loaded. Turner made her way from third base to home plate for an easy Alabama run. Soon after, with bases loaded, Grantham was up to bad.
“I was just thinking, ‘See a good pitch, put a good swing on it,’” she said.
She saw her pitch, put a swing on it and hit a walk-off triple, bringing in the three runners on base and locking in Alabama’s 9-1 win.
Alabama’s second game against Marshall of the story was a different story. It didn’t finish early and it didn’t finish with such a cushion.
The Crimson Tide put itself on the board first with sophomore Sydney Booker knocking out a single to bring McCleney in. Marshall was unable to answer during the first inning, but it had a runner score after a fielding error by Mari Cranek out in right field.
The game remained tied, 1-1, through the fourth inning.
“When we let Marshall stick around stick around, you could see that their pitcher was getting confident, more and more confident as the game went alone, and the team was getting more confident,” Murphy said. “Then they’re going to come back and bite you in the butt if you let them stay in the game.”
During the fifth inning, Booker grounded out to Marshall’s shortstop but was able to bring Dare home to pull Alabama ahead by one. Marshall answered in the sixth inning as it had a runner steal third, but with a fielding error by Booker, the runner also ran home, tying the game back up, 2-2.
With one out in the seventh inning, Alabama had McCleney on first base and Leona Lafaele up to bat.
Murphy said Lafael’s first swing was a monster cut, but it fouled off. Soon after, she had two strikes to her name.
“All I was thinking was just to make contact and drive her in,” Lafaele said. “That’s literally all I was thinking – just barrel on the ball, barrel on the ball.”
She did just that and sent the ball over the fence in left-center field, bringing two runs in for Alabama.
“She got every bit of it,” Murphy said. “It reminded me of the home run she hit against Kentucky in the World Series two years ago – same spot, left-center, hit the scoreboard. Definitely that was a big hit and we definitely needed it.”
Soon after, Booker got a double but she was caught trying to steal third, resulting in the third out.
Marshall needed to answer if it wanted to force Alabama into extra innings. It had a runner who was hit by a pitch on base, but no one was able to bring her in. She was left stranded on first base and Alabama won, 4-2.
Alabama finished the day 13-50 at the plate, and it had five errors in the field, most of which resulted in the opponent scoring.
“We definitely have to clean it up, but we’ll take it,” Lafaele said.