HONOLULU, Hawaii - Alabama opened play at the Rainbow Wahine Classic with a hard-fought win over SIUE Wednesday, rallying from a two-run deficit in the fourth inning to win, 6-4.
Alabama (26-0) took the first lead of the game in the top of the second before SIUE (7-8) rallied back with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. The Crimson Tide answered right back with three in the top of the fifth to pull back ahead before adding a pair in the sixth to bring the score to its eventually final tally of 6-3.
The win ties this season's start for the second-best in program history, previously going 26-0 to start the 2012 season. One more win would tie the program record of 27-0 set in 2001. Wednesday's win was just the second time this season the Tide trailed after four innings.
Three of the six RBIs came from junior Claire Jenkins, hitting a solo home run and a two-run double. Jenkins has now hit a home run in four straight games. Batting second, sophomore KB Sides went 2-for-4 with a run scored while junior Merris Schroder went 2-for-3 in the eight hole, hitting her fifth home run of the season. In the circle, Sarah Cornell (10-0) earned the win in relief, throwing 1.1 innings as the pitcher of record when Alabama pulled back ahead while Montana Fouts backed her up with 3.0 shutout innings for her second save of the season.
SIUE threatened early in the bottom of the first, loading the bases with one out but Alabama got out of the jam with a popup in foul territory and a strikeout. In the top of the second, Jenkins cleared the fence in left field with a solo home run to give Alabama the first lead of the game.
The Cougars loaded the bases again in the bottom of the third with two out and Alabama turned to its bullpen as Cornell entered in the jam. The junior righty caught the last batter swinging at strike three to keep it a 1-0 game in the Tide's favor.
SIUE loaded the bases for a third time in the bottom of the fourth but managed to capitalize on the opportunity this time with a two-out single down the left field line to drive in a pair and take a 2-1 lead. Another RBI single increased it to 3-1 and a walk loaded the bases yet again before a groundout ended the inning.
A walk and base hit from sophomores Kaylee Tow and Sides put two on with one out in the top of the fifth and junior Bailey Hemphill dropped one in the gap in right center to drive a run in, cutting the deficit to 3-2. Jenkins followed with a hard-hit ball that banged off the wall in center, driving in a pair to give Alabama back the lead, 4-3.
The leadoff batter for the Cougars was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the fifth and then stole second before the Tide made another pitching change with Fouts stepping into the circle. A pair of groundouts and a strikeout stranded the runner at second and the Tide maintained its one-run lead heading to the sixth.
Freshman Skylar Wallace showed off her speed in the top of the sixth with a leadoff triple down the right-field line before Schroder crushed a home run to center field, giving the Tide a three-run advantage. Alabama couldn't add to its lead in the top of the seventh and a hit-by-pitch and walk put the first two SIUE runners on in the bottom half, bringing the potential tying run to the plate. After a force out at third, an infield single loaded the bases with one out. A force out at second went for out number two but a run did score on the fielder's choice to make it 6-4. Fouts ended the game with a strikeout, capping the comeback victory.
Alabama continues play in Hawaii with a pair of games Thursday, facing Niagara at 6 p.m. CT and SIUE at 8:30 p.m. CT.