HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Facing a one-run deficit in the seventh inning, ninth-ranked Alabama put two in scoring position with one out but could not complete the rally as 11th-ranked Baylor handed the Crimson Tide its first loss of the 2018 season, 2-1, Sunday at the Black and Gold Invitational.
Alabama (6-1) battled to the very end in a close contest against Baylor (7-0), taking an early two-run deficit in the first inning before cutting it in half on a solo home run from freshman Kaylee Tow in the third inning. Back-to-back singles from junior Caroline Hardy and sophomore Claire Jenkins along with some heads-up baserunning put two in scoring position for the Tide in the seventh inning, but the Bears tiptoed out of danger with a strikeout and popup to end the game.
Alabama tallied four hits on the day against Baylor starter Gia Rodini (3-0), who earned the complete-game victory while Tide starter Alexis Osorio (2-1) took the tough complete-game loss in the circle, striking out five.
Baylor threatened early in the bottom of the first, with a double, walk and sac bunt putting two in scoring position with one out. A strikeout went for out number two before Carlee Wallace drove both runners in on a tough infield single. A walk put another runner on but a strikeout ended the inning and limited the damage to two runs. Baylor hit a two-out single in the bottom of the second but the runner was caught stealing in the next at-bat on a great throw and catch from junior Reagan Dykes to freshman Maddie Morgan to keep it a two-run game.
Alabama's first hit of the day was a big one, as Tow went opposite field with a solo home run in the top of the third inning to cut the deficit to 2-1. Baylor had two on and one out in the bottom half of the inning, but senior Peyton Grantham scooped up a hard grounder, tagged third and firing over to first for a 5-3 double play to end the inning.
The Bears led off the bottom of the fifth with back-to-back singles and, following a strikeout, Jenkins fielded a grounder up the middle, touched second and threw to first for an inning-ending double play. Sophomore Elissa Brown led off the top of the sixth with an infield single and then slid under a close tag attempt at second on a stolen base in the next at-bat. A strikeout went for out number one and a groundout moved Brown up to third base but a second strikeout ended the inning and stranded Brown 60 feet away as it remained a 2-1 lead for Baylor.
The Bears could not add to its one-run lead in the bottom of the sixth and the Tide put the potential tying run on base with a one-out single from Hardy in the top of the seventh. With senior Rachel Bobo pinch-running at first base, Jenkins pulled a one-out single through the left side, advancing to second on the throw as Bobo slid into third. A called strikeout and popup would end the rally attempt however, as the Bears held on to take the narrow 2-1 victory over the Tide.
Next weekend, Alabama makes its home debut, hosting the Easton Bama Bash Feb. 23-25 at Rhoads Stadium. The Tide will play five games over three days, welcoming Georgia State, Northern Iowa and No. 8/6 Florida State.