Pitching Powers Alabama Softball Over Robert Morris
Patrick Murphy turned to senior southpaw Lauren Esman to open the T-Mobile Crimson Classic opener against Robert Morris. Under the Friday night lights at Rhoads Stadium, Esman had a career performance, throwing a complete game shutout in a 4-0 Alabama win.
"Lauren's got the lowest ERA on the team right now," coach Murphy said. "With nine strikeouts and two walks, I thought she moved the ball well. If she gets ahead of batters, it's usually a done deal."
Esman struggled early on in her best collegiate pitching performance. The first two batters for the Colonials reached on a fielding error and walk, both issued by Esman.
After a rough start to the first, Esman responded with seven dominant innings for the Crimson Tide, passing her career high of five innings against Indiana on Feb. 18. Pitching coach Lance McMahon was anticipating a strong response from Esman.
"A little grit and resiliency, that's what Lance was looking for," Murphy said.
A pair of sophomores gave Esman run support in the early innings innings. Jordan Stephens recorded two hits on the night, the first being a two-run single in the bottom of the first inning. Kali Heivilin led off the second inning with a triple, scoring on a throwing error by Robert Morris.
"We always have the mindset of trying to get on the board first," Stephens said. "Scoring first is always big, it sets the tone, and I was happy I was able to do that."
Ashley Prange added on in the bottom of the third with a solo home run, a team high sixth of the season.
Four runs of support was all Esman needed, as she cruised through the rest of the game. She easily eclipsed her previous high of 74 pitches, as she threw over the century mark Friday night.
"It feels great to throw a complete game," Esman said. "I didn't even know what inning it was. I just try to take it inning by inning."
In her three years at Michigan, Esman was primarily a hitter, only recording two innings on the mound in her freshman season. Veteran pitcher Montana Fouts has mentored Esman throughout the season on how to handle herself on the mound.
"Something that Montana taught me a couple of days ago was 'You're facing every inning as if it's a new game.'" Esman said. "When you think of it that way, the game just flies by."