While the Alabama softball team’s previous regional matchup against Western Kentucky was drama-filled, the Crimson Tide quickly squashed any indications of that Sunday, defeating the Hilltoppers 13-1 in a game that was called after five innings.
The Crimson Tide’s offense busted things wide open in the second inning after junior Kaila Hunt hit a grand slam, her second home run of the postseason. Hunt belted one over the left field wall to score herself, senior Kayla Braud and freshmen Andrea Hawkins and Haylie McCleney in a six-run inning for the Tide.
“We wanted to try to make a statement,” Hunt said. “I thought we did a really good job.”
Today’s superb offensive performance also had head coach Patrick Murphy excited about where the team is currently headed.
“We always say we are going to save the best for last and peak at the right time and [today] was the best we have played all year,” Murphy said.
Junior pitcher Jackie Traina started her second consecutive game, both coming against Western Kentucky in regional matchups. She finished with 52 pitches in four innings, allowing only one hit and no walks while striking out two of her 13 batters faced. Sophomore Leslie Jury came in to pitch the fifth and final inning.
The Hilltoppers’ starting pitcher Mallorie Sulaski did not fare as well, replaced by Emily Rousseau after pitching 34 balls in 1 1/3 innings. Rousseau allowed nine earned runs on 11 hits for the Hilltoppers.
Murphy took advantage of the comfortable lead his team took in the fifth inning, opting to cycle in senior batters such as Jackey Branham and Keima Davis. Branham slapped a hot grounder up the middle for a double, while Davis struck out to end a gritty frame for the Crimson Tide.
Danielle Richard posted a home run of her own, a solo shot in the first inning. Hunt’s grand slam was her 15th of the season and second in as many games. Senior Kayla Braud’s hitting streak now stands at 23 games, as she added three hits and three runs to the Crimson Tide’s offensive effort.
After a four-score fifth inning, Western Kentucky finally got on the board with a Shawna Sadler base hit that scored pitcher Mallorie Sulaski from second base. That would be the last score of the afternoon.
Traina spoke candidly after the game about how good she thinks her team could be.
“Amazing,” Traina said. “We have power. We have speed. They say for a team to have one heartbeat, and we have one heartbeat.”
Murphy echoed his athlete’s statement, recognizing his team’s unity and will to succeed.
“We’ve gone through some ups and downs, all of us,” Murphy said. “We’re a blue collar team. We’re selfless.”
The thrashing of Western Kentucky completed an undefeated regional outing for the Tide, who will travel to face the winner of the Knoxville, Tenn. regional.