Claire Jenkins hit just one home run her freshman season.
She doubled that total to two her sophomore year.
Entering Wednesday night’s softball game with Georgia Tech, the Alabama shortstop had eight homers.
She made sure No. 9 was something memorable, belting a grand slam in the fifth inning to catapult the No. 4 Crimson Tide past the Yellow Jackets 4-3 at Rhoads Stadium.
So where is all this power coming from?
“It’s just been hiding,” Jenkins said.
On a night when the Crimson Tide (34-1) struggled, Jenkins came through, blasting the first pitch she saw from Morgan Bruce over the wall in left field.
“It was drop-in and it hung up a little bit and that’s my pitch,” Jenkins said. “As soon as it hit the bat, I knew it was over.”
Before the grand slam, Alabama had several chances to get runs but failed to produce when it counted. Three times the Crimson Tide put the leadoff hitter on base, and all three times they came up empty.
“We had a couple of opportunities and just couldn’t get it done,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. “But Claire came up and she was looking for that pitch. That was clutch. She was the MVP in the weight room this fall. She worked her butt off.”
Things got a little dicey in the bottom of the seventh. Georgia Tech loaded the bases with three walks and scored a run on an infield hit to make it 4-3 still with the bases loaded with two outs. Sarah Cornell, who was pulled earlier in the inning, returned to the circle to get a flyout for the final out.
Georgia Tech (22-13) used back-to-back doubles from Rebecca Praire and Breanna Roper in the third inning to push its first run across. In the fourth inning, Bailee Zeitler got another double off Alabama starter Sarah Cornell to make it 2-0.
Elissa Brown started off the fifth with a leadoff single, and Kaylee Tow followed with a walk. With one out, Bailey Hemphill walked to load the bases for Jenkins.
Cornell pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits with three strikeouts to run her record to 13-0.
Brown led the Alabama offense with two hits and one stolen base. Merris Schroder had a double.
Alabama begins a three-game series with Mississippi State starting Friday at Rhoads Stadium.