HONOLULU, Hawaii - Alabama softball secured a program-record 28-0 start with a pair of wins Thursday at the Rainbow Wahine Classic, defeating Niagara, 9-3, and SIUE, 8-3.
Alabama's (28-0) start is a program record, beating the previous best of 27-0 set in 2001. The Crimson Tide tied the record with a 9-3 win over Niagara (0-10) in the day's opener before downing SIUE (8-9) in the nightcap, 8-3.
GAME ONE: ALABAMA 9, NIAGARA 3
A big second inning gave Alabama plenty of cushion in its eventual six-run victory over Niagara. The Tide put up a seven-spot in the bottom of the second, highlighted by a grand slam from junior Bailey Hemphill, part of a 2-for-3 day at the plate. Sophomore Kaylee Tow also had a pair of hits at the leadoff position, including a fifth-inning solo home run. Sophomore Madison Preston threw 3.1 innings in the start but junior Krystal Goodman (5-0) ultimately picked up the win with 3.2 shutout relief innings behind her.
Leading off the bottom of the second, freshman Skylar Wallace reached on a bunt single before a wild throw went all the way to the right field corner, giving her enough time to head home on the throwing error. A pair of walks put two on base before Niagara made the early turn to its bullpen. Two batters later, another walk loaded the bases with one out and a fielding error on the next play moved everyone up 60 feet to make it 2-0. Hemphill promptly unloaded the bases with her 12th home run of the year, a grand slam to give Alabama 6-0 cushion.
A dropped fly ball allowed senior Merris Schroder to hustle all the way to third on the third error of the inning. Junior Claire Jenkins drew a walk to put runners at the corners, bringing Wallace up to the plate for the second time in the inning. A successful double steal increased the lead to 7-0 before a fly ball and groundout ended the big inning.
With two on and two out in the top of the third, Niagara broke into the run column with a two-run double. A wild pitch moved the runner to third and a base hit up the middle brought her home before a popup ended the inning with Alabama's lead now trimmed to 7-3. Alabama got another run back in the bottom half of the inning on an RBI groundout to lead 8-3.
With a runner on and one out in the top of the fourth, Goodman entered to pitch in relief for the Tide. A single put two on base and a wild pitch moved both into scoring position before Goodman rebounded with back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning and keep it a five-run game.
With the score the same in the bottom of the fifth, Tow sent the ball over the fence in center field for a solo home run to increase the lead to 9-3, which ultimately proved final.
GAME TWO: ALABAMA 8, SIUE 3
An early 2-0 lead for Alabama was erased when SIUE tied it up in the bottom of the fourth. The Tide responded immediately in the top of the fifth, taking a two-run lead before the Cougars cut it to one with a solo home run in the sixth. Alabama added some key insurance in the top of the seventh, scoring four to bring the tally to its eventual final of 8-3. Batting back-to-back in the middle of the order, Schroder and senior Reagan Dykes each earned a pair of hits and drove in two RBIs, including a two-run home run from Dykes in the seventh. Senior Courtney Gettins (3-0) threw 5.0 innings to earn the win while freshman Montana Fouts tossed 2.0 shutout relief innings for her third save of the season.
Alabama took the first lead of the game in the top of the second, when a hard-hit single down the first base line from Schroder scored Jenkins from second. Later with a runner on first and two out, Wallace dropped a single into shallow right before an error on the play allowed her to move all the way to third while a run scored ahead of her to make it 2-0.
A walk and a ground-rule double in the bottom of the fourth quickly gave SIUE two in scoring position with nobody out. An RBI groundout plated one run and, two batters later, a fielding error extended the inning and allowed the game-tying run to cross before a strikeout sent the teams to the fifth now tied at 2-2.
Junior Elissa Brown started the top of the fifth with an infield single, advanced to second on a groundout and came around to score on an RBI double from sophomore KB Sides, putting Alabama back ahead, 3-2. After a walk to Jenkins, Schroder pulled a ball into shallow right to score Sides and make it 4-2 before a fly ball ended the inning.
SIUE cut Alabama's lead to one in the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run to lead off the inning, which ended Gettins' outing in the circle. Fouts entered in the save situation and kept the Tide in front heading to the seventh inning.
Tow drew a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh and a force out attempt at second in the next at-bat sailed into left field, allowing Tow to score all the way from first and Sides to settle at third, now leading 5-3. Hemphill then lifted a ball into left field, allowing Sides to tag up and score on the sacrifice fly to increase the lead to 6-3. Three batters later with a runner on base and two out, Dykes blasted a two-run home run over the left field fence, pushing ahead 8-3 which ultimately proved final.