Across the Diamond: Rough Going for Alabama Softball vs. Kentucky
Coming off an incredible three-game sweep at Florida over Easter weekend, Alabama softball coasted through their final non-conference game against Belmont but found the waters very choppy against the Kentucky Wildcats.
The Wildcats came up with a statement series win with a solid 4-1 victory Friday night, a close 3-1 loss Saturday night and a 3-2 win in 13 innings in Sunday's rubber game.
Alabama Struggles from the Plate
For much of the Patrick Murphy's two decades as head coach, the Crimson Tide muscled their way through the SEC with big arms from the circle and powerful bats at the plate.
For much of the past three seasons, the bats struggled to find consistency especially against top competition in the SEC and nationally.
This season, Alabama's offense has used Ellisa Brown's speed on the bases and the long ball to put runs on the board. The Crimson Tide leads the SEC with 71 round trippers as a team.
However, Kentucky's pitching duo of Grace Baalman and Autumn Humes stifled Alabama in all three games over the weekend by allowing just six runs and 21 hits over 26 innings from the circle.
The frustration from the Alabama perspective can be summed up in the 13-inning loss on Sunday. After Reagan Dykes doubled to tie the game at 2-2, Kentucky's Autumn Humes shut the door on the Crimson Tide's offense by allowing just one hit and two walks in 7.1 innings of scoreless relief.
After the game, Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy praised the jam packed Rhoads Stadium crowd for their support but expressed disappointment at his team's lack of offensive execution in Sunday's series finale.
"Just disappointing that we had I think the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th that when you're the home team, you can win the game but we didn't do it, but you really got to credit their reliever (Autumn Humes). She gave up the one bunt single and that was it in seven innings. Tip your cap to her for sure." Murphy said.
Skylar Wallace Comes up Clutch Saturday Night
Despite a lackluster weekend as a team from the plate, two players shined for Alabama on offense.
Junior Elissa Brown continued to produce at the top of the order by going 5-12 against Kentucky including a two-hit performance Friday night and a three-hit effort with two stolen bases Sunday afternoon.
The most promising sign at the plate came from one of the team's true freshman. Following an 0-3 outing in Friday's series opener, Skylar Wallace posted two hits including the go-ahead double with the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning for Alabama's only victory of the weekend
Following the game Saturday night, Wallace described her approach against Wildcats pitcher Grace Baalman.
"Going into my at bat, I kind of thought, 'You know what, she owed me for three at bats last night. I'm going to come out on top on this one. I'm going to have my team's back. Sarah's (Cornell) been working her butt off this whole game. I'm going to come out here and get it done. This is the time right now.' So going into that at bat, I said, 'You know what, all that work that you have done already, just breathe and hit the ball. That's all you can do. She's not going to beat you so just hit the ball.' So that was pretty much just it, went up there swinging." Wallace said.
SEC Championship Still in Sight
Despite a tough weekend at home against Kentucky, the Crimson Tide controls their own fate when it comes to winning an SEC regular season title and earning the conference tournament's top seed.
Coming into this week, Alabama sits atop the conference standings by one full game over LSU and 1.5 games over Ole Miss with three SEC games to go.
LSU did not play last week and hosts the Crimson Tide while Ole Miss took two of three games at home against Tennessee and travels to Georgia to wrap up their regular season.