TUCSON, Ariz. - Alabama softball gutted out a pair of hard-fought victories Friday at the Hillenbrand Invitational, defeating USF, 2-0, before beating New Mexico, 1-0.
Alabama (7-0) and USF (1-5) were both scoreless until a fifth-inning solo home run from junior Merris Schroder and a sixth-inning run on a wild pitch providing some insurance in the 2-0 decision. It was a similar story in the second game of the day, with the Crimson Tide and New Mexico (2-2) scoreless until the final inning of regulation, with a clutch RBI double from sophomore KB Sides making the difference in the one-run win.
GAME ONE: ALABAMA 2, USF 0 In a low-scoring affair, it was a solo home run from senior Merris Schroder and a run scored on a passed ball by sophomore Kaylee Tow that accounted for all the runs in a 2-0 win over USF. Freshman Montana Fouts (3-0) was dominant in the circle, striking out a season-high 12 in the complete-game shutout, allowing just three hits with no walks.
The two teams were locked in a scoreless pitcher's duel or the first four innings before Schroder put the Tide in the run column with a leadoff solo home run in the top of the fifth. USF looked to threaten immediately in the bottom half of the inning, putting a runner in scoring position but a play at the plate on a two-out single ended the inning and preserved the one-run lead.
In the top of the sixth, Tow drew a leadoff walk, the first free pass for either team. Later with two out, junior Claire Jenkins kept the inning alive with a single to center field and Schroder loaded the bases with a walk. A passed ball moved the runners up 60 feet, scoring Tow from third to give Alabama a two-run lead. A walk loaded the bases again before a groundout ended the half-inning.
The Tide couldn't add to its 2-0 lead in the top of the seventh, stranding a runner at third base, but the Bulls went down in order in the home half of the inning as Alabama held on to win, 2-0.
GAME TWO: ALABAMA 1, NEW MEXICO Alabama battled in another pitching duel in the second game of the day, with a late RBI double from Sides making the difference in the 1-0 victory. Junior Krystal Goodman threw 4.2 scoreless innings to start the game, striking out three with four hits and one walk allowed and Sarah Cornell (2-0) earned the win in relief with 2.1 shutout innings behind her.
With a runner on first and two out in the bottom of the third for New Mexico, the Lobos looked to tally the first run of the day on a double that rolled to the wall in left center. A great throw from Schroder and a relay from Jenkins to senior Reagan Dykes at the plate ended with a tag to wrap up the inning and keep the game scoreless.
Alabama had a runner in scoring position in both the fourth and fifth innings but could no break into the run column. After a hit-by-pitch with two out in the bottom of the fifth, junior Sarah Cornell entered to pitch in relief and got out of the inning with a swinging strikeout.
Still scoreless in the top of the seventh, sophomore Maddie Morgan sent the first pitch of the half-inning into left field for a leadoff single. Freshman Skylar Wallace laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the potential go-ahead runner into scoring position and Sides came through with the clutch hit two batters later, roping a double to center field to drive in Morgan to make it 1-0. Sides was tagged out at third trying to stretch it to a triple to end the half-inning, and New Mexico could only muster a one-out walk in the home half of the inning as the Tide posted the 1-0 victory.
Alabama continues play at the Hillenbrand Invitational on Saturday, Feb. 16 facing Cal State Fullerton (2:30 p.m. CT) and ninth-ranked Arizona (4:45 p.m. CT).