April 5, 2014
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Fourth-ranked Alabama secured its fourth SEC sweep of the season with a pair of wins over Arkansas in a Saturday doubleheader at Rhoads Stadium.
With the wins, Alabama (35-5, 14-1 SEC) improves its home conference record to 9-0 this season as the Crimson Tide holds onto its top spot in the SEC standings. Between the two games, Alabama was led at the plate by Kaila Hunt and Andrea Hawkins who each went 4-6, while Leona Lafaele capped a stellar weekend going 3-5 with five RBI. All three of Alabama's pitchers saw game action Saturday, allowing just four earned runs over 12.0 innings pitched.
Arkansas (24-17, 2-10 SEC) continued to struggle on offense, converting just four runs off 10 hits and eight walks. The pitching staff surrendered a combined 16 earned runs between the two games as they could not capitalize on early 1-0 leads in both games.
GAME ONE: Alabama 12, Arkansas 1 (5 Innings)
In game one, Alabama jumped on Arkansas early and the bats stayed hot, scoring 12 runs off 11 hits to earn a 12-1 run-rule victory in five innings. For the second-straight game, every batter in the lineup reached base during the game while Hunt was a perfect 3-3 from the plate with two RBI. Lafaele and Danae Hays accounted for six of the Tide's 12 runs, driving in three each.
Alabama starter Leslie Jury (13-3) threw 5.0 innings in the circle, allowing just one earned run off three hits. Arkansas starter Grace Moll (8-5) was shelled in the circle, allowing 12 earned runs off just 11 hits.
The Tide fell behind early, as Arkansas plated its only run of the game in the top of the first inning off a bases-loaded groundout. The lead didn't last long, as Alabama pulled ahead with three runs in the bottom of the first. With the bases loaded and one away, Molly Fichtner hit a long fly ball into right field, allowing Hawkins to tag up and score from third on the sacrifice fly. Lafaele drove the other two across in the next at-bat, hitting a double to left center to make the score 3-1.
Alabama added some serious cushion in the bottom of the second, scoring five runs. With the bases loaded and one away, Hunt dropped a single into right field to score two, making the score 5-1. Fichtner added another pair with a perfect double into the left-field gap, swelling the lead to 7-1. Lafaele came through with another big at-bat, driving in Fichtner off a single into center field as the Tide now led 8-1.
Alabama was held scoreless in the third but the bats came back in the fourth, scoring four runs. With two on and two away, Lafaele was intentionally walked to set up Peyton Grantham for an RBI single through the 5-6 hole that gave the Tide an eight-run lead. Hays brought all three baserunners home with a double to right center to make the score 12-1, which proved final as Jury shut the Razorbacks down in the top of the fifth.
GAME TWO: ALABAMA 4, ARKANSAS 3
With Alabama leading 4-1 heading into the top of the seventh, Arkansas attempted to fight back, putting the go-ahead run at first base, but the Tide fought through the rally to earn the narrow 4-3 victory and secure the series sweep.
Six of Alabama's starting nine earned a hit, with the top four in the order accounting for five of the team's seven hits. Andrea Hawkins led the team with a 2-4 performance, while Lafaele continued to be a potent run producer, driving in a team-leading two RBI. Jaclyn Traina (15-2) earned the win, throwing 6.1 innings before re-entering in the seventh to secure the final out of the game. Arkansas starter Kasey Fagan (6-2) took the loss in the circle, lasting just one-third of an inning before exiting the game, ultimately being credited with three earned runs.
A sacrifice fly in the top of the first would give Arkansas the first lead of the game, but the Tide quickly answered back with three runs in the bottom-half off a bases-loaded walk to Fichtner and a two-run single by Lafaele. Alabama added another in the bottom of the second as Jadyn Spencer hit a hard infield single to the shortstop that allowed Haylie McCleney to score, making it a 4-1 ballgame.
The score would remain 4-1 until the final inning, as Alabama was just three outs away from securing the series sweep. After a strikeout, a double and a walk forced Alabama to turn to its bullpen as Sydney Littlejohn entered in relief. Another walk loaded the bases and a groundout scored one, making it 4-2. With two outs, another hard single scored one and put the potential tying run at third and the go-ahead run at first. Traina re-entered the game looking to get the final out and forced an infield popup as the Tide held on to win, 4-3.
Next up, Alabama hosts UAB (23-16) on Wednesday, April 9 with first pitch set for 6 p.m. CT.
Head Coach Patrick Murphy:
On Leona Lafaele's Outstanding Weekend at the Plate
"Everything she hit was hard and low: two-hoppers up the middle, doubles in the gap. In batting practice, sometimes she looks like she is not happy with herself unless the ball goes over the fence, even if she is hitting line drives everywhere. This weekend she hit .750 with no home runs but a bunch of RBI's. Hopefully that will give her confidence for the future. She does have home run power, but the pitches that she got turned into singles and doubles."
Sophomore Infielder Leona Lafaele:
"I have been working on new stuff with Coach Aly. I have been struggling a lot with popping up and getting all of the ball, so I tried something new and I stuck with it, believed in it and it worked! I was just trying to see the ball, hit the ball and keep it simple. When you go up there you really can't think about it too much. If you have some runners on the base, score the runners."
Senior Infielder Kaila Hunt:
On Bouncing Back From Her 0-3 Performance on Friday
"I just tried to be more calm than yesterday. I felt like I was really jumpy at the ball yesterday, and half swinging at it. I just tried to stay in my legs and be simpler and just hit strikes. That was the approach I took to the first game. The first game shows what we're trying to do when we're making adjustments and learning from our at-bats: get good timely hitting when there are runners on base."