The scenario was perfect.
Alabama rallied for three runs in the sixth inning. Lexi Kilfoyl retired the first two Arizona batters in the seventh inning and was one strike away from completing a comeback win at the Crimson Classic on Saturday at Rhoads Stadium.
It didn’t happen.
Kilfoyl gave up back-to-back singles and Malia Martinez hit the first pitch she saw over the centerfield wall that gave Arizona a 6-5 victory after Alabama failed to deliver in the bottom of the seventh.
Alabama (11-7) won the first game of the Classic, a 3-2 decision over UT Arlington.
“We need to shut the door in the seventh inning,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. “It’s as simple as that. We get two outs, that should be the end of the game. We have done that way too often this year.”
Alabama had two comebacks Saturday. After falling behind 2-0, Bailey Hemphill and Maddie Morgan delivered with RBI singles to tie the game 2-2.
Arizona added a run in the fourth and held a 3-2 lead until a big sixth-inning for Alabama. With two outs Skylar Wallace, KB Sides and Morgan knocked in runs to make it a 5-3 Crimson Tide lead.
“It was two really good comebacks,” Murphy said. “It was awesome and something that we needed. We showed a lot of fight.”
It should have been enough, but it didn’t work out as planned.
“The mistake for me was the second kid that was 0-2 (in the count) and the pitch was not a good pitch, which the girl lined into right field,” Murphy said. “I don’t know if she got nervous or what but the next one was not a good pitch either.”
It was not the way Hemphill had hope to celebrate her senior day. The Crimson Tide first baseman, who holds the single-season record for home runs (26) and RBIs (84) went 1-for-2 with an RBI and a walk.
“It sucks that we lost that way but we can only learn from it,” Hemphill said. “(Murphy) just told us to keep improving because where we want to be is (Oklahoma City for the World Series) at the end of the year.”
Playing some top-notch non-conference opponents could help make that happen. Alabama, which begins conference play next week, faced five opponents ranked No. 16 or better. There are plenty of top-20 SEC teams to deal with this season as well.
“In the postseason and even in the SEC, games are going to be like that all the time,” said Morgan, who went 2-for-3 with two RBIs against Arizona. “I’d rather us lose a couple of hard ones early in the season than later when it means more.”
Kilfoyl tossed 129 pitches in the complete game loss, allowing six runs on nine hits with four strikeouts.
In the win against UT Arlington Sarah Cornell got the win, pitching five innings and giving up two runs on three hits. Savannah Woodard and Jenna Johnson had two hits each.
Reach Edwin Stanton at 205-722-0226, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @edwinstantonu2