April 2, 2014
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Facing the top-rated pitching staff in the country, a timely three-run double by Andrea Hawkins made the difference in Alabama's narrow 3-0 victory over South Alabama Wednesday night at Rhoads Stadium.
With the win, Alabama (32-5) snaps South Alabama's (29-4) 17-game road winning streak, handing the Jaguars their first road loss since the Crimson Tide defeated them last season in Tuscaloosa. Alabama remains perfect all-time against their in-state foe, stretching the series record to 9-0. A second-inning double by Andrea Hawkins drove in three unearned runs while the Alabama defense overcame two errors to hold the visitors scoreless.
Sydney Littlejohn (7-0) earned the win for Alabama, throwing the first 4.0 innings with just three hits allowed while Jaclyn Traina earned her second save of the season, throwing 3.0 shutout innings in relief. South Alabama junior Farish Beard (16-2), the national leader in ERA, took the loss in the complete-game effort, allowing three runs after allowing just nine all season heading into this game.
With each team stranding runners in scoring position early, Alabama took the first lead of the game in the bottom of second as Hawkins dropped a two-out, bases loaded double into shallow left. The ball eluded the left fielder and allowed all three runners to score on the play. Hawkins made a break for third on the play, but the Jaguar third baseman caught her in a rundown for the final out of the inning with Alabama leading 3-0.
In the top of the fifth, South Alabama led off the half-inning with a hit-by-pitch and an infield single, which ended Littlejohn's outing as Traina entered to pitch for the Tide. After a strikeout, a single would load the bases with only one away in the inning. Danae Hays fielded a hard grounder and fired home, getting the second out at the plate and a groundout to third ended the threat as Alabama held on to its 3-0 lead.
South Alabama would earn just one hit in the final two innings, as Traina pitched two scoreless innings to secure the shutout and give Alabama it's sixth-straight win.
This weekend, Alabama resumes SEC play with a three-game series against Arkansas (24-14, 2-7 SEC). Game one is set for an 8 p.m. CT first pitch on Friday, April 4. The game will be aired on ESPNU with Beth Mowins and Jessica Mendoza calling the action.
Head Coach Patrick Murphy:
"I felt like [Sydney Littlejohn] had a really good practice yesterday. She pitched against five of our batters and I was able to stand behind home plate and see every pitch. There was probably one ball that was hit solid, so that was a good indication. She needs to have opportunities against a top-15 team and this was her first start against a highly-ranked team. I thought she did a really good job. The only negative for me was hitting the eight-hole hitter. It was just one bad pitch that got away from her, it was supposed to be a curveball away. I thought she did terrific. I will take a shutout all day long. Both her and [Jaclyn Traina] were ready at game time and it was just depending on what happened whether Jackie would have to come in. The goal was for us to score first."
Sophomore Outfielder Andrea Hawkins:
"Pressure situations are going to be a lot easier with Haylie [McCleney] in front of me. As soon as she got the walk, she was saying 'they are doing it again'. Her talking like that has made it easier these past few games. The first pitch was low and out, I didn't think it was, but he called it a strike. I thought [Farish Beard] would probably come with it again, so I was swinging away and seeing it big. I just needed to put the ball in play because we had runners in scoring position. I knew I just get it in play and my teammates would get it done."
Freshman Pitcher Sydney Littlejohn:
"It was a great win for us. South Alabama is a very good, very disciplined team. We had to come out ready to play and the team came out fighting. I found out when we were warming up that I was going to start. I wanted the ball, and I knew my team was behind me. It definitely is my biggest start to date and I was pretty excited, I'm not going to lie. It was time for me to prove myself and show my team that I can do it. They always believe in me and are behind me making plays and doing whatever they can to help me out. It is a really big confidence booster going out with that kind of defense behind me and knowing that, even if I am not having a good day, they are going to pick me up."