March 16, 2014
OXFORD, Miss. - Tenth-ranked Alabama softball remains perfect in SEC play this season, as the Crimson Tide defeated Ole Miss, 9-2, on Sunday to earn its sixth conference win.
Alabama's (24-4, 6-0 SEC) sixth SEC win came in one of its strongest offensive performances of the season, as the Tide blasted 12 hits for nine runs, including four home runs. Kaila Hunt hit the first of the four home runs, pushing her career total to 53, just eight shy of breaking the school record of 60. Haylie McCleney went 2-4, extending her hitting streak to 14 games, while Molly Fichtner and Leona Lafaele each went 2-4 with a home run. Jaclyn Traina (9-2) threw another gem on the mound, going 6.1 innings with nine strikeouts as Sydney Littlejohn entered in relief in the seventh to get the final two outs of the game.
Ole Miss (16-13, 1-5 SEC) could not avoid the sweep, as the offense failed to get a sustained rally going. Starter Carly Hummel (6-5) lasted 5.0 innings in the loss with five earned runs, but reliever Emily Gaitan didn't help the team's cause with four runs allowed in the final 2.0 innings.
Alabama failed to score in the first inning, but took the first lead of the game in the second inning as Danielle Richard knocked an RBI single into center field to score Jordan Patterson from third. Ole Miss threatened in the bottom-half of the inning, placing two in scoring position but Traina struck out the final batter to leave the pair stranded and preserve the 1-0 lead.
Hunt tripled the Tide's lead in the top of the third with a two-run homer to left field, scoring McCleney to make it 3-0. Fichtner followed that with a solo homer of her own to make it 4-0. It was the first time this season and the first time since last season's Tuscaloosa Regional Round that Alabama hit back-to-back home runs in a game.
Ole Miss scored their first run of the game in the bottom of the third, as Allison Brown roped a double down the right-field line to score one and cut the Tide's lead to 4-1. Alabama regained its four-run lead in the top of the fourth, as Lafaele hit a leadoff homer into left field to make it 5-1.
With one out in the top of the fifth, Hunt hit a hard ball into the right-field gap that bounced off the wall away from the outfielders, allowing her to slide into third with a triple. The Tide could not bring her across however, as a check-swing groundout and a strikeout kept her 60 feet away.
Ole Miss tacked on another run in the bottom of the fifth, as Alyssa Invergo hit a solo home run to center field that flew just past the reach of a leaping McCleney at the wall to make it a 5-2 ballgame.
In the top of the sixth, Gaitan entered in relief for Ole Miss, but a walk, error and passed ball quickly put two Tide runners in scoring position with nobody out. Chandler Dare drove in one on a pinch-hit RBI single through the left side and Andrea Hawkins followed that with an RBI single into left field to make it 7-2. McCleney singled to load the bases and Chaunsey Bell followed with a pinch-hit RBI groundout to score Dare and make it 8-2.
In the top of the seventh, Peyton Grantham padded the Tide's lead with a pinch-hit solo homer, the first long ball of her career, to make it 9-2. Alabama took its seven-run lead into the bottom of the seventh, as Traina got the first out and Littlejohn entered to pitch and try and force the final two outs. Littlejohn allowed a pair of hits but a groundout and a strikeout shut the door on the Rebels as Alabama secured the 9-2 win and the series sweep to remain perfect in SEC play.
Next up, Alabama hosts Georgia State (12-12) for a midweek matchup on Wednesday, March 19 at Rhoads Stadium. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. CT.