TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Alabama bats were hot in the opening game of the Tuscaloosa Regional, as the Crimson Tide only needed five innings to dispatch SIUE, 13-3, Friday night at Rhoads Stadium.
The top of the Alabama (46-11) order had a field day in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament, as the top four hitters in the Alabama order accounted for nine of the team’s 13 hits, including a perfect 4-4 day for Jadyn Spencer with four RBI. It was her first career four-hit game and her third career game with four RBI. Haylie McCleney went 2-3 out of the leadoff spot to extend her hitting streak to 14 games, while Leona Lafaele hit her sixth home run of the season to end the game.
Leslie Jury (16-6) earned the victory in the circle for the Tide, throwing 4.2 innings with three runs allowed off six hits while Sydney Littlejohn entered to retire the final SIUE (30-22) batter in the top of the fifth. The Cougars went hitless until the third inning but managed to score some late runs, though they could not prevent the run-rule loss. Starter Haley Chambers (18-14) took the loss, lasting just 1.2 innings while being credited with six earned runs and one unearned off six hits. Erin Greenwalt pitched the final 3.0 innings, allowing six runs though only two were earned.
McCleney dropped a leadoff single into left field in the bottom of the first and promptly stole second in the next at-bat. Kallie Case attempted to sacrifice McCleney to third and the second baseman covering the first-base bag dropped the ball, allowing McCleney to score on the E4 and make it 1-0. Case stole second and Spencer cleared the bases with a long home run to center field, putting Alabama ahead 3-0 with one out in the inning.
Case extended Alabama’s lead again in the bottom of the second, driving in McCleney from second with a triple to the wall in right-center and Kaila Hunt followed that up with a double to left-center to drive in Case and make it 5-0. Spencer make it four-straight hits with a single to right field, scoring Hunt from second to end Chambers’ outing in the circle as Alabama was in front, 6-0, with two out in the inning. Erin Greenwalt entered to pitch for the Cougars and Chandler Dare reached on a slap single to put runners at the corners and Molly Fichtner drew a walk to load the bases. Lafaele hit a one-hopper single to the short stop, moving everyone up station-to-station to stretch Alabama’s lead to 7-0 on the RBI single. Peyton Grantham made a bid at a grand slam but Jordan LaFave crashed into the wall in right for the final out of the inning as SIUE stopped the bleeding with the Tide up 7-0.
Leslie Jury’s no-hit bid was broken up with two outs in the third inning, as Jill Rackers knocked a hard-hit double to left field. SIUE was held scoreless in the top half of the third but Alabama continued to pad its lead in the bottom half. Hunt got things going with a check-swing single that allowed McCleney to score all the way from second, making it 8-0. Hunt advanced to second on a wild pitch and Spencer drove her home with a single into shallow center to make it 9-0.
SIUE put its first runs on the board in the top of the fourth as Rachel Coonrod hit a double into right-center, scoring two to make it 9-2. A great diving catch by Case in left field and a quick throw back to second went for a double play to put two outs on the board and clear the bases. LaFave hit a single into center field and McCleney misplayed it, allowing LaFave to advance all the way to third on McCleney’s first error of the season. A popup stranded her at third however as Alabama headed to the bottom of the fourth leading 9-2.
With two in scoring position for the Cougars in the top of the fifth, a wild pitch allowed a run to score, making it 9-3 as Alabama made a pitching change, bringing in Sydney Littlejohn, who struck out the final batter of the inning. In the bottom of the fifth with two in scoring position, Fichtner drew a walk but ball four sailed over the head of the SIUE catcher, allowing Hunt to score from third and Andrea Hawkins to advance to third as the score swelled to 10-3. Lafaele ended the game with a towering three-run homer to give Alabama a 13-3 win in five innings.
With the win, Alabama advances to play USC Upstate (46-7) Saturday at 1 p.m. CT in the winner’s bracket after the Spartans defeated South Alabama (40-13), 5-3, in the opening game on Friday. The Jaguars and the Cougars will play an elimination game at 3:30 p.m. with the winner of that game and the loser of the 1:00 game playing another game at 6 p.m. CT.