CW / Davida Franklin
For the second straight series inside Rhoads Stadium between No. 4 Alabama (29-4; 9-3 SEC) and No. 24 Texas A&M (25-7; 4-5 SEC) the Crimson Tide found a way to sweep the Aggies. Alabama’s second SEC sweep of the season keeps the team in contention for a regular season conference title, just behind the current conference leader, the No. 13/11 Arkansas Razorbacks (31-3; 12-0 SEC).
“It was really nice to see everyone’s work come together,” senior Krystal Goodman said.
A quick 72-hour turnaround from its series loss to No. 7/7 Kentucky proved favorable for Alabama in its series opener against the Aggies. The team captured a 11-3 run-rule win, featuring a stand-out 3-for-4 night from graduate student Claire Jenkins.
Jenkins opened her night at the plate with a grand slam in the bottom half of the first to quickly put the Crimson Tide ahead 5-0. The in-state product tacked on two more RBIs for six on the night due to a double in the final frame.
“I’ve felt pretty comfortable in the box all season, and I just feel that everything’s going smoothly,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins’ fellow member of the 2016 recruiting class, graduate student Bailey Hemphill, also had a big night at the plate. Hemphill drew two walks in the game, which allowed her to surpass four-time All-American Haylie McCleney for the most walks in program history—200—and is now the second program record to her name. Hemphill recorded two RBIs in the game.
Aside from Jenkins and Hemphill, five other Alabama batters rallied a hit. A walk-off hit came off the bat of sophomore Lexi Kilfoyl.
Kilfoyl (11-2; .86 ERA) also got the start in the circle and is back in the win column after being the losing pitcher in both of the team’s losses to Kentucky. One run was earned against the sophomore and eight of the 15 outs in the game came via the strikeout.
An offensive explosion for the second straight night allowed Alabama to capture an 8–6 victory, securing the series win and its third overall conference series.
Hemphill broke the program walk record Thursday night and climbed up the ranks of the RBI record book Friday night, as a two RBI performance put her at a second place tie with Kaila Hunt at 215. Hemphill reached base in all four plate appearances due to a pair of singles and walks, boosting her team-leading on base percentage to .550.
“I have so much trust in her and what makes her [Hemphill] so great is that she’s going to get it done,” Mack said.
Graduate students Elissa Brown and Alexis Mack, senior K.B. Sides and Kilfoyl also put up multi-hit performances and the offense as a whole finished with a .414 batting average and 12 hits. Texas A&M pitcher Grace Uribe had trouble recording the final out in each frame as the Crimson Tide bats went 4-for-9 with two outs, .444 batting average.
Texas A&M also found success in game two, scoring six runs with four runs platted due to a trio of home runs against junior Montana Fouts (11-2; 1.87 ERA). The three home runs allowed by Fouts is the most she has allotted in a single game in her career. In the win, Fouts was able to strike out 13 Aggie batters and had multiple strikeouts in five of the seven innings. Kilfoyl (11-2; .85 ERA) registered the final out of the game via the strikeout to register her first save of the season.
An eight-run fourth inning featuring a grand slam from senior Kaylee Tow lifted Alabama to a 14-6 run-rule victory to clinch the sweep over the Aggies. Tow was only 1-for-9 at the plate she tallied the game winning RBI in the bottom of the sixth to put the run-rule into effect.
“I was just trying to swing at a strike, and I mean, it’s a good way to come out of a slump,” Tow said.
Five consecutive hits were pieced together to begin the fourth frame, a total of eight hits were registered in the inning and 11 total Crimson Tide batters reached safely. The Crimson Tide saw four different Texas A&M pitchers in the inning including ace Makinzy Herzog (9-2; 1.59 ERA) and was replaced after only being able to record one out against the five batters she faced. Herzog entered the weekend with a conference .73 ERA, but did not fare well against Alabama as she surrendered nine earned runs over the course of three innings on the weekend.
It was a historic weekend for Hemphill in the batter’s box. She claimed the program walk record in the series opener and claimed sole possession for the second most RBIs in school history, 218. The graduate student finished the weekend going 5-for-6 at the plate and a .909 on-base percentage. Tow views Hemphill as someone to look up to and “learn from.”
The lone focus for Alabama in the series finale was to not only earn a sweep, but to also remember Luke Ratliff, an Alabama superfan, who passed away late Friday night. A moment of silence was held before the game and Murphy and Athletic Director Greg Byrne wore plaid jackets—Ratliff’s signature student section uniform. Some players were seen with a plaid ribbon tied in their hair.
“We really wanted to think about him while we were playing today,” Goodman said.