HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Alabama softball opened play at the Black and Gold Invitational Friday with a convincing 11-1 win over the host Southern Miss Golden Eagles.
Ninth-ranked Alabama (4-0) took a three-run lead in the top of the second over Southern Miss (2-5) and then added some cushion later with four-run fifth and sixth innings to build an 11-run lead. The Golden Eagles avoided the shutout with a lone run in the bottom of the sixth but the Tide held on to win, 11-1.
Alabama hit three home runs, the most in a game since the April 1 win at Missouri last season and it is the first time at least three different players hit a home run since the 2017 season opener against Towson. Junior Caroline Hardy led the offense with a career day at the plate, going 3-3 with a career-high three RBI, including a two-run home run in the second inning. Senior Peyton Grantham also had a three-hit day at the plate, scoring twice and driving in two runs. Additional home runs came off the bats of sophomore Claire Jenkins and junior Merris Schroder in back-to-back at-bats in the fifth inning.
In the circle, senior Alexis Osorio (2-0) threw 5.0 shutout innings, allowing just one hit while striking out nine, and freshman Madison Preston tossed a scoreless fifth inning. Southern Miss starter Jillian Johnson (0-1) took the loss, lasting just 2.0 innings.
After leaving two on base in the top of the first, Alabama scored early in the top of the second. Grantham led off the inning with a single up the middle and Hardy followed with a no-doubt home run to straightaway center as the Tide pulled ahead 2-0. Jenkins drew a four-pitch walk and Schroder was hit by a pitch to turn it back to the top of the order, and sophomore Elissa Brown laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the pair into scoring position. Freshman Maddie Morgan fired a line drive to center field, allowing Jenkins to tag up at score on the sacrifice fly and make it 3-0 before a groundout ended the half-inning.
Grantham and Hardy tallied their second hits of the day in the top of the third, putting runners at the corners but the Tide could not score in the half-inning. Southern Miss earned its first hit of the day in the bottom half of the inning, leading off with a single and walk before two strikeouts and a groundout ended the inning to keep the score at 3-0.
With senior pinch-runner Rachel Bobo at second base and two out in the top of the fifth, Hardy pulled a hard-hit single through the left side, scoring Bobo to extend Alabama's lead to 4-0. Jenkins followed that with a towering home run down the left field line, plating two to make it a 6-0 game. Schroder followed that with a solo home run to center field before a popup ended the half-inning with Alabama now leading 7-0.
With two on and one out in the top of the sixth, junior Reagan Dykes reached on an infield single and Morgan rounded third to score on a fielding error to make it 8-0. Later with two in scoring position, Grantham dropped a single into shallow center field, scoring both as she advanced to second on the throw with the score now 10-0. On a ground ball later in the inning, Grantham advanced to third and then made a heads-up break for home on a slow double play attempt, sliding under the tag to make it 11-0.
In the bottom of the sixth, the first two runners reached base safely for Southern Miss and a fielding error on a double play attempt allowed the Golden Eagles to plate its first run of the day. That would be the only run of the day for Southern Miss, as the inning ended with the score 11-1 Alabama.
Alabama continues play at the Black and Gold Invitational Saturday, facing No. 24 McNeese State (4-1) at 1 p.m. CT and Mississippi Valley State (0-4) at 4 p.m. CT.