TUSCALOOSA The second-ranked University of Alabama softball team split a doubleheader with fourth-ranked Tennessee Sunday afternoon at the Alabama Softball Complex before a record crowd of 2,245 fans. Alabama won the first game, 13-2, before UT erased a 3-0 deficit to take a 7-3 victory in the final game.
Alabama took two of the three games played in this crucial series to open Southeastern Conference action, and left the series with a record of 20-2 overall and 2-1 in the SEC. Tennessee is now 21-3 overall, 1-2 in league play. The Crimson Tide continues its season when they host fifth-ranked Florida on Wednesday, March 12, in a doubleheader slated for a 5 p.m. Central time start at the Alabama Softball Complex.
Here are recaps of Sunday’s two games:
Game 1 Alabama 13, Tennessee 2
The opener followed form for Alabama this season. After a sluggish start in which the Tide fell behind in the first, Alabama erupted for a 13-2 victory that was called due to NCAA run-rule regulations after four and one-half innings. Home runs by Dani Woods and Whitney Larsen highlighting another Alabama offensive onslaught as the pair combined for eight runs batted in to lead the Tide. Chrissy Owens went the distance on the mound for Alabama, allowing two runs (one earned) on eight hits, striking out seven and walking two to earn the victory to improve to 7-0 on the season. Megan Rhodes (8-1) took the loss for Tennessee, allowing 10 runs on eight hits while striking out three and walking three, in addition to hitting one batter.
Tennessee had a quick start at the plate. In the top of the first, Kelly Grieve reached on an infield single on a hard slap to the pitcher, and then stole second. With one out, Tonya Callahan hit a deep fly to right that was carrying over the fence for a home run, but Alabama’s Whitney Larsen leaped and caught the ball to rob Callahan of what would have been a two-run homer. Shannon Doepking followed with a double to left, scoring Grieve for a 1-0 Tennessee lead.
Alabama struck back to take the lead in its half of the first. With one out, Kelley Montalvo walked and moved to third on a double to right center by Lauren Parker. Montalvo tied the game when she scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Dani Woods. Charlotte Morgan then gave the Crimson Tide a 2-1 lead on a single to center field that scored Parker.
In the top of the third, Tennessee fought back to tie it at 2-2. Grieve led off with an infield single to second and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice groundout to the pitcher on a bunt by Chandra Mogan. A passed ball moved Grieve to third. Owens then intentionally walked Callahan and a single to center by Doepking scored Grieve to tie the game. An infield single on a hard grounder to third Tiffany Huff loaded the bases but a diving stop Montalvo on that grounder prevented UT from taking the lead. Owens gathered her poise and settled down after that, striking out Webb and getting Danielle Pieroni to fly out to center to end the inning.
The Tide responded accordingly in the bottom of the third. Brittany Rogers led off with an infield single to shortstop. Montalvo was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs. After Parker flied to left for the first out, Woods nailed a high home run to right field to give Alabama a 5-2 lead.
Alabama took complete command in the fourth. Larsen led off with a single to left and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jordan Praytor. With one out, Rogers singled to shortstop, advancing Larsen to third. With Montalvo at bat, Rogers stole second uncontested to put runners at second and third. Montalvo then lined a sharp low single to left to score Larsen and move Rogers to third, giving the Tide a 6-2 lead. With Parker at bat, Montalvo stole second to put runners second and third. Parker’s sacrifice fly to center scored Rogers while Montalvo advanced to third on a high throw to the plate by UT center fielder Anita Manuma that allowed Montalvo to score from third for an 8-2 Crimson Tide lead. Woods walked and moved to second when Charlotte Morgan singled, then moved to third on a throwing error by Manuma. A walk by Ashley Holcombe loaded the bases and a walk to Kellie Eubanks scored Woods for a 9-2 Alabama lead.
The Tide wasn’t finished in the fourth. The bases remained loaded for Larsen, who clubbed a 3-2 pitch over the new scoreboard and video board in left center field for a grand slam to give the Tide a 13-2 lead. The blast stands among the longest home runs in Alabama Softball Complex history, estimated by veteran observers to have traveled approximately 275 feet.
The six-run fourth by Alabama caused Tennessee to enter the fifth inning hoping to avoid being run-ruled, but a scoreless stanza by the Vols ended the first game of the twinbill with a 13-2 final score.
Game 2 Tennessee 7, Alabama 3
The duo of Brittany Rogers and Kelley Montalvo combined to stake Alabama to a 3-0 lead through three innings of the final game. In the first. Rogers led off with a single down the left field line, the stole second. She scored on a single to center by Montalvo for a 1-0 Alabama lead. In the third, Rogers led off with a walk before Montalvo lined a 3-1 pitch down the left field line for a two-run home run to extend the Tide’s lead to 3-0.
Tennessee got on the board in the top of the fourth when Tonya Callahan hit a solo home run over the left field wall to narrow the Alabama lead to 3-1. The Vols had a chance to tie it two hitters later. Tiffany Huff singled to right center and was replaced by pinch runner Kelsey Stander. Erinn Webb then hit a deep fly to right center field that Tide centerfielder Brittany Rogers leaped over the wall to catch for the second out, preventing a tie score before UA pitcher Kelsi Dunne worked her way out of the inning without further damage.
The Vols narrowed the game in the fifth. With one out, Lillian Hammond reached on an infield single to shortstop. She moved to second on another infield single to short by Kelly Grieve. Kenora Posey then hit a grounder to UA second baseman Lauren Parker, who was ruled to have missed a tag on Grieve before throwing to first to retire Posey. After getting the throw from Parker, UA first baseman Charlotte Morgan threw to second in an attempt to retire Grieve but her throw was late and Hammond rounded third and scored. The call at second was strongly debated by UA head coach Patrick Murphy, but it stood and UT had closed the Alabama lead to 3-2.
Dunne intentionally walked Callahan, then walked Doepking to load the bases. On a 3-2 pitch with two outs, Huff floated a single to center to score Grieve and Callahan and put Tennessee in front, 4-3. That chased Dunne from the mound as the Tide brought in Chrissy Owens with runners at the corners. Webb then singled to left to score Doepking for a 5-3 UT lead. Danielle Pieroni then popped a single to right to score Huff for a 6-3 Volunteers advantage with Webb advancing to third. A wild pitch enabled Webb to score for a 7-3 margin before the inning ended without further scoring.