Softball evens series with No. 18 Georgia after strong sixth inning

Blake Byler, Staff Reporter

Yesterday, head coach Patrick Murphy wanted more timely hits out of his Alabama squad.

He got just that today in a six-run sixth inning that propelled the No. 4 Crimson Tide (30-5, 7-4 SEC) over No. 18 Georgia (31-6, 5-3 SEC) by a final score of 9-3.

“We finally did what I asked all year, to pass the bat down,” Murphy said. “Ten got up to bat that inning, and that was what we needed.”

Starting in the circle for the eighth time this season was junior Lexi Kilfoyl (6-2). Kilfoyl struck out eight batters en route to the victory.

“[Kilfoyl] struggled the one inning trying to find the strike zone … but after that I thought she pitched pretty well,” Murphy said. “When you’re 0-1 or 0-2, you’re not going to hit her.”

Scoreless through the first two innings, Georgia struck first in the top of the third. The Bulldogs’ Ellie Armistead, the ninth batter in the lineup, drilled a solo home run to left field to open the inning. Georgia would add another score on a sac fly that brought in Jaiden Fields to extend the lead to 2-0 before Alabama was able to escape the inning.

Looking for an answer in the bottom of the third, freshman Megan Bloodworth gave Alabama its first hit of the game. Two outs later, with two strikes down, senior Ashley Prange knocked a double into center field, bringing in Bloodworth for the Crimson Tide’s first run of the game, cutting the Georgia lead to just one run.

Prange was one of Alabama’s most effective batters on the day, getting on base at all four at-bats with two hits and two walks.

The run injected life into the sellout crowd at Rhoads Stadium, which had been relatively quiet to that point. The energy intensified after senior Ally Shipman struck out looking on the ensuing at-bat, as the crowd largely disagreed with the strike call made by the home plate umpire.

Alabama opened the fourth with a double play, but that did not phase Georgia. The following two Bulldogs batters drew walks, which was followed up with an RBI single to center field to extend their lead to 3-1 before Kilfoyl’s second strikeout of the day ended the inning.

Sophomore Bailey Dowling walked to open the bottom of the fourth and turned on the burners to make it home from first after a hit down the first baseline from freshman Aubrey Barnhart. The hit was Barnhart’s second of the year. Junior Jenna Johnson then stepped up to hit a line drive into left field, bringing in the tying run.

Johnson’s hit inspired Georgia head coach Tony Baldwin to make a pitching change, inserting freshman Kylie Macy.

“[Johnson]’s one of the toughest outs we have on the team,” Murphy said. “When she gets two strikes, you’re in for a long haul. She’s going to foul everything that’s close and hopefully hit something. She, probably above anybody else, could care less if she has two strikes.”

After a few scoreless half-innings, Alabama emphatically broke the tie in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Johnson bombed one just over the left field wall for a two-run home run, giving Alabama a 5-3 lead, its first of the game.

The home run ignited the “Ala-Bama” chant from the stands to the brickyard, as Georgia was on the ropes.

“I had a feeling that it was going to be a change-up, and a lot of that comes from [Kaylee] Tow’s bat before,” Johnson said. “I had a feeling it was coming, and she left a little too much plate, so I took advantage of it.”

Johnson was masterful for Alabama at the plate. In three at-bats she had two hits, three RBIs, and a home run, which was her fifth of the season. She was responsible for both the game-tying and go-ahead runs for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama still had more in the tank in the sixth, too. Pinch hitting, junior Abby Doerr batted Bloodworth to extend the lead even more. Shipman followed with a single with the bases loaded to bring in two more, then Dowling brought in one of her own, giving the Crimson Tide a comfortable lead to be able to close out the game.

With the series evened at one game apiece, Monday’s game three has become even more impactful. The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs will square off one final time in Rhoads Stadium at 6 p.m. CT and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.

“We’ve seen pretty much all of [Georgia’s] pitchers, so tomorrow we have to come out early and come out swinging,” Johnson said. “We’re ready.”

Questions? Email the sports desk at sports@cw.ua.edu.