Second to none: Littlejohn sets record with 2nd perfect game

Second to none: Littlejohn sets record with 2nd perfect game

Sydney Littlejohn threw for her second perfect game in only seven starts for the Crimson Tide on Sunday. CW | Shelby Akin

Kelly Ward

At first, Rhoads Stadium was eerily quiet. A 10-0 lead in the top of the fifth rarely elicits any interest other than the shuffling of bags and belongings that usually accompanies a mercy-rule win.

A 10-0 lead doesn’t elicit silence, but on Sunday it did.

No one dared jinx sophomore right-hander Sydney Littlejohn as she worked through 14 batters, six with strikeouts and eight with the help of her defense.

But with two outs in the top of the fifth, Rhoads erupted. Fans stood on their feet to see something Alabama had never done at home before: throw a perfect game.

With two outs in the top of the fifth, Ole Miss’s Bri Payne hit a line drive right into third baseman Kallie Case’s glove.

The perfect game was complete.

Littlejohn ran over to Case and hugged her, lifting her into the air. Their teammates surrounded them quickly, each one wanting to congratulate Littlejohn on her second perfect game of her career and of the season.

Just like in the first perfect game, her ball had movement on it.

“When they swing and miss, you know that it’s doing something,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. “And they tried. They made adjustments. I mean, they moved back. They moved up. They were on the chalk. Give them credit. They tried. And she just, you know, put it where they couldn’t hit it.”

When Ole Miss did manage to make contact with the ball, Alabama’s defense was ready to make a play.

The final out – the line drive to Case at third – had a familiar ring to it.

“We were kind of laughing because the whole year last year, I played left field, and every time Sydney was in a really tight game, I would always get the last out in left field so we were kind of laughing and looking at each other like, ‘OK, the ball’s coming to me,’ so I was really prepared for it to come to me, but I was just trying to do it for Syd,” Case said. “Anybody was going to dive, do anything to make that last out for her ‘cause she pitched great.”

Several did dive for the ball. Sophomore Marisa Runyon started at third. In the bottom of the third, she caught a foul ball and nearly fell into the dugout while holding onto it.

For the second out of the fifth inning, Chandler Dare caught a fly ball in shallow center. She managed to hold onto the ball even after tripping over left fielder Andrea Hawkins.

“I was just saying, ‘Just catch it. Just catch it,’ and I just happened to catch it, and thank God ‘cause Sydney got the perfect game, and she’s worked so hard and she looks so great on the mound, and I’m just glad she got that,” Dare said.

The final nine outs were putouts. Littlejohn started the game with six straight strikeouts. She caught one batter looking.

“I mean, everybody catches on after a while,” she said. “They’re going to start hitting it, but [I] just got to make them hit it where our players are.”

Littlejohn (8-0) threw her first perfect game of the season Feb. 6 against Eastern Kentucky, another five-inning mercy-rule game. She has seven starts this year, two of which have been perfect games.

She is the first player in program history to throw two perfect games in her career. She is also the first Alabama pitcher to throw a perfect game at Rhoads.

The Crimson Tide (18-4, 3-0 SEC) swept Ole Miss (13-8, 0-3) to start conference play. All three games, Friday’s 6-0 win, Saturday’s 7-0 win and Sunday’s 10-0 win, were shutouts. It was the first time since 2011, when Alabama swept South Carolina in South Carolina, that the Crimson Tide shut out an SEC opponent over an entire series.

Alabama hosts UAB (18-5) on Tuesday at 6 p.m.