TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Trailing 5-4 with a runner on base in the bottom of the sixth, Bailey Hemphill blasted a two-run home run to center field to become Alabama's career home run leader and push the Crimson Tide to a 6-5 win over Tennessee, securing a spot in Saturday's SEC Softball Tournament Championship game against Florida.
After tying Kelly Kretschman's career record with two long balls yesterday, Hemphill launched herself into history with her 61st career homer Friday night to break Kretschman's record that has stood since 2001. The 61 home runs put her in a tie for fourth place in SEC history.
The win moves Alabama into the 2021 SEC Softball Tournament Championship game, where the Crimson Tide will face the top-seeded Florida Gators Saturday at 5 p.m. CT live on ESPN2. It marks Alabama's ninth appearance in the championship game, previously winning in 2012, 2010, 2005, 2003 and 1998. The Tide and the Gators have previously squared off four times for the tournament title, with Alabama winning in 2012 in Tuscaloosa and Florida winning in 2019, 2009 and 2008.
Alabama (44-7) trailed early after Tennessee (41-14) scored a run in the top of the first but the Tide answered right back with two in the bottom half of the inning on a pair of errors. A two-run home run from Taylor Clark in the bottom of the third extended the lead to 4-1 before the Lady Vols got a run back in the top of the fourth. With the score the same in the top of the sixth, Tennessee rallied to score three runs with two out and retake the late lead, 5-4.
In the bottom of the sixth, Alexis Mack reached on a one-out single to set up Hemphill for the big at-bat, smashing the fourth pitch to straightaway center to put Alabama back in front, 6-5. Montana Fouts (21-3) shut the door in the top of the seventh, striking out the side to send the Tide to the SEC Tournament Championship game.
Fouts was dominant again in the circle, striking out 13 batters over 6.2 innings pitched. Kaylee Tow had a 3-for-3 day at the plate, her eighth three-hit performance of the season and her team-leading 19th multi-hit effort. It also extended her hitting streak to eight games, as did Mack in the leadoff spot going 1-for-3 with a run scored.
FROM HEAD COACH PATRICK MURPHY
"It was a great game; another incredible Tennessee-Alabama matchup. I have a lot of respect for Karen, Ralph and their team. It was a great game and I am glad our team was able to experience a pressure-packed, anxiety-filled situation. Our team needed to feel that and learn how to play through it and they did. Our fans were awesome again tonight and definitely helped us out as well. Around midnight last night, Kelly Kretschman texted me to congratulate Bailey and said it couldn't happen to a better person. We are all very proud of Bailey and home run number 61 could not have come at a better time."
- Alabama is now 43-26 all-time at the SEC Tournament, including a 5-3 mark vs. Tennessee.
- The 43 wins are the second-most of any team in the SEC Tournament, only trailing LSU with 44.
- The Crimson Tide will be appearing in its ninth SEC Tournament Championship, seeking its sixth title with previous wins in 2012, 2010, 2005, 2003 and 1998.
- This will be the fifth meeting between Alabama and Florida in the SEC Tournament Championship, with the Gators winning three times (2019, 2009, 2008) and the Tide winning in 2012 in Tuscaloosa.
- Bailey Hemphill's sixth-inning home run was the 61st of her career, passing Kelly Kretschman (1998-2001) for the Alabama career record and ties her for fourth in SEC history.
- The Tide improves its win streak to 12 games, 11 of which have come over ranked foes Hemphill has now reached base safely in 14 straight games, while Alexis Mack and Kaylee Tow extended their hitting streaks to eight games.
T1 | Tennessee's Kiki Milloy scored on an RBI groundout (0-1, 0 Out)
B1 | Savannah Woodard popped a bases-loaded infield RBI single off the pitcher's glove and an error on the play brought a second run home (2-1, 2 Out)
B3 | Taylor Clark hit a two-run home run to straightaway center (4-1, 1 Out)
T4 | Chelsea Seggern dropped an RBI single into left field (4-2, 0 Out)
T6 | An infield single from Ivy Davis drove in a run (4-3, 2 Out)
T6 | A wild pitch allowed the tying run to score (4-4, 2 Out)
T6 | An RBI single up the middle from Cailin Hannon gave Tennessee the lead (4-5, 2 Out)
B6 | Bailey Hemphill smashed a two-run home run to center field (6-5, 1 Out)
Alabama vs. Florida in SEC Tournament Championship Game in Tuscaloosa. Saturday, May 15 (ESPN2)