KNOXVILLE, Tennessee – Bailey Hemphill wasn’t stomping mad. She was stomping happily, and with a touch of relief.
The University of Alabama softball team’s freshman first baseman planted her right foot firmly and emphatically on home plate Wednesday at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium as she completed her trot around the bases after hitting the ball far over the fence in left field.
That sixth-inning home run gave the 15th-ranked Crimson Tide some late insurance in its 4-1 victory over Arkansas in the opening game of the SEC Tournament. It also garnered the rookie from Lafayette, Louisiana, a measure of redemption and a chance to move on from the blunder she committed less than two weeks earlier.
Hemphill hit a ball over the fence at Ole Miss, but it wasn’t a home run because she never touched home plate.
This time, when she hit her seventh bomb of the season, Hemphill’s teammates gathered and all pointed at the plate to make sure. They did so with smiles on their faces.
“I didn’t know they were going point but I thought they would do something because they’ve been giving me a hard time,” Hemphill said.
As she rounded third base, head coach Patrick Murphy reminded her.
“I made sure I stepped on it and celebrated after,” Hemphill said. “It was a little redemption.
“It was a little bit embarrassing at first, but then I just had to laugh it off and say it’s never going to happen again.”
Said Murphy, “I thought how she handled that situation was awesome. We laughed at ourselves. If it did bother her, she didn’t show it.”
Alabama (41-15) needed to show something at the SEC Tournament to try to secure a bid to host an NCAA Regional for a 13th straight year. The Crimson Tide came ready, plating three runs in the first inning. Hemphill, catcher Reagan Dykes and shortstop Sydney Booker all had RBI singles.
“”It was kind of a pass-it-down the line sort of inning, which we’ve talked about for months,” Murphy said. “It was fun to see. Just like bad hitting is contagious, good hitting is contagious.”
Leadoff hitter Elissa Brown, like Hemphill, went 2-for-3. UA pounded out nine hits off Autumn Storms (16-15).
Alabama starter Sydney Littlejohn (15-7) scattered five hits over five innings, giving up a solo homer to Nicole Schroeder. Alexis Osorio tossed two innings of no-hit relief for the save.
The victory against Arkansas was a start: UA has won two games in a row for the first time since late April, and for only the second time since the start of that month. Alabama will play 11th-ranked Texas A&M today at 11 a.m. CT in a quarterfinal game.
A win over the Aggies would greatly enhance UA’s chances of hosting in the NCAA Tournament. Alabama wants more..
“We want to win the whole tournament,” Hemphill said. “We just want to win every game.”
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-0224.