BATON ROUGE, La. — Patrick Murphy didn’t have to say a word to motivate his 2019 softball team. It just took a number.
That number was 8. The significance? That is where the SEC softball coaches predicted Alabama would finish in the league this year.
On Saturday night against LSU, the Crimson Tide officially erased the 8 and replaced it with a different number – 1.
The Crimson Tide built a four-run lead, then held on against a scrappy LSU team to take a 4-3 win and secure the outright regular-season SEC championship and the top seed in next week’s league tournament in College Station, Texas.
Freshman pitcher Montana Fouts retired the final six LSU hitters, adding a save to her complete-game win from Friday night.
According to starting pitcher Sarah Cornell, who left after allowing a solo home run to start the sixth inning, the win was a display of determination after Alabama (49-6, 17-6 SEC) had clinched a share of the title Friday night.
“We didn’t want to share anything,” Cornell said. “We talked about it at the hotel last night. We wanted that title for ourselves, by ourselves.”
Cornell shut out the Tigers through the first three innings as Alabama built a 4-0 lead in Saturday’s game. That included a three-run second inning in which LSU starting pitcher Maribeth Gorsuch walked five UA hitters, including three with the bases loaded. Alabama added another run in the top of the fourth when third baseman Maddie Morgan blasted a solo home run off LSU reliever Shelby Wickersham.
Alabama catcher Reagan Dykes said the Crimson Tide didn’t relax at that point.
“We knew LSU was going to give us a fight because that is the kind of team they are,” she said. “We knew that four runs might not be enough, but fortunately it was.”
LSU (40-14, 14-9) scored its first run on an Amanda Doyle sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fourth. Savannah Stewart added an RBI single in the fifth and Shemiah Sanchez led off the sixth with her 17th home run of the year. That blast prompted Murphy to bring Fouts out of the bullpen.
“We had decided before the game that we would bring Montana in for two innings if we had the lead,” Murphy said. “We didn’t want to have to come back tomorrow and try to win (the outright title) then if we could clinch it tonight. Sarah got us to the sixth, so it worked out perfectly.”
Fouts allowed only one ball out of the infield in her two innings of work and struck out LSU’s Aliyah Andrews for the final out.
The series concludes today at 1 p.m. but Alabama did at least some celebrating on Saturday after erasing that 8.
“That was something we carried on our back all year long,” said Dykes, one of the four seniors for the Crimson Tide. “They didn’t show a lot of respect for our returning players and, to be honest, we had some adversity, some injuries in the off-season. But to be part of an SEC champion, that’s something I will always remember.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.
deaconblues likes this