Runs were at a premium Wednesday night at Rhoads Stadium, as an unassuming run in the first inning ultimately made all the difference in a narrow 1-0 victory for Alabama softball over Valparaiso.

Alabama (21-2) scored its lone run of the day on what would have been an RBI groundout, though a Valparaiso (6-3) error on the play allowed the hitter to reach safely. That proved the only tally for either team, who were evenly matched with four hits apiece. Crimson Tide starter Sydney Littlejohn (8-0) and the Alabama defense got out of some late jams, leaving four baserunners stranded as Littlejohn struck out a career-high 13 in the complete-game win. Valparaiso starter Ashlyn Montgomery (3-1) also went the distance, allowing the lone run on four hits and two walks.

“You have to give credit to their pitcher,” UA head coach Patrick Murphy said. “She pitched a good game. We need to do a better job of making adjustments at the plate. As the game went on, she [Montgomery] got more confident. That’s what happens. It seemed like every time we had a runner at third, there were two outs on the board.”

A leadoff single and stolen base got Elissa Brown into scoring position on two pitches in the bottom of the first and Demi Turner squared up on the third pitch with a sacrifice bunt to move Brown up 60 more feet. Bailey Hemphill then pulled a grounder to the left side as Brown broke for home and the Valparaiso shortstop bobbled it, allowing Hemphill to reach on the error while earning the RBI as Brown easily scored to make it 1-0.

The Crusaders were held hitless until the fourth inning but started to apply some pressure two innings later with a single and double to quickly put two in scoring position to lead off the top of the sixth. A heads-up play by Reagan Dykes behind the plate caught the lead runner in a rundown for the first out, but the trailing runner did move up to third. A strikeout went for out number two and, after an intentional walk, a running catch by Demi Turner just past the infield ended the inning and preserved the one-run lead, which ultimately would prove final.

This weekend, Alabama opens SEC play with a three-game series against Arkansas (19-1) at Rhoads Stadium, staring Friday March 10 at 6:30 p.m. CT. Saturday’s contest, scheduled for a 5 p.m. CT start, will be aired live on SEC Network.

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