Late inning heroics lift Alabama softball to season-opening win
MOBILE - Looking to avoid its first opening day shutout loss since 1998, fourth-ranked Alabama came back in the top of the seventh inning with a clutch two-run single by Chandler Dare in a 2-1 Crimson Tide victory over No. 23 South Alabama on Thursday in the season opener for both teams.
Dare’s hit came after six tough innings for the Tide (1-0) as South Alabama (0-1) starter Farish Beard (0-1) was effectively wild. She held the Tide scoreless despite hitting six batters. That tied an Alabama school record for the most times hit by a pitch, which was set in Game 2 of the 2012 Women’s College World Series against Oklahoma.
Leslie Jury pitched 5.1 innings to start the game but freshman Alexis Osorio (1-0) was credited with the win, throwing 1.2 relief innings with four strikeouts in her collegiate debut.
Offensively, Dare’s two-run single was just the third for Alabama as Chaunsey Bell and Demi Turner were the only other players to grab a base hit. Haylie McCleney had three stolen bases despite not registering an official at-bat as she was hit by a pitch three times and walked, counting as the go-ahead run in the final inning.
The two teams were scoreless until the bottom of the third, when Chloe Rathburn roped a single to center field to score the runner from second, putting the Jaguars up 1-0. Rathburn attempted to steal second base in the next at-bat but Chaunsey Bell fired down to second to catch her stealing and end the inning as the Tide trailed by one run.
Alabama had its first scoring opportunity in the top of the fourth, as Bell broke up the no-hitter with a double to shallow right. The runner at first broke for home but was caught in a rundown in between third and home for the final out as South Alabama held onto its one-run lead.
Beard and the South Alabama defense continued to tight-rope out of danger, holding the Tide scoreless. The Jaguars were looking for some insurance in the bottom of the sixth, loading the bases with one away. With that, freshman Alexis Osorio entered to pitch and successfully got the Tide out of the jam with a strikeout and popup to keep it a one-run game heading to the final inning.
Freshman Demi Turner laid down a successful bunt single with one out in the top of the seventh as the lineup turned back to the top of the order. Turner stole second and Haylie McCleney was walked to put two on with still one out. Dare came through with the clutch at-bat and sent a two-run base hit into center field to score two and give the Tide a 2-1 lead.
Alabama couldn’t add to its lead and a two-out fielding error in the bottom half kept the home team alive. The runner just beat out the throw attempt at second after a ground ball, putting the potential tying run in scoring position with two away. Osorio bounced back with a strikeout to end it as the Tide completed the 2-1 comeback victory.
The Tide continues its opening weekend on Friday with a pair of games against Eastern Kentucky (3 p.m.) and Houston (6 p.m.) in the Sand Dollar Classic in Gulf Shores. On Saturday, Alabama will play Florida Gulf Coast (3 p.m.) and Florida International (6 p.m.) and will then close the weekend on Sunday against McNeese (1 p.m.).