By Drew Hill
Special to Tidesports.com
Alabama’s sweep of a Friday doubleheader at the Easton Bama Bash didn’t feature much ‘bashing’ from its opponents.
Central Florida and Texas Tech combined for just three hits and two runs against UA pitching in 4-0 (UCF) and 7-2 (Texas Tech) losses, but it took time for Alabama’s bats to catch up with its arms.
Three innings into its game against UCF, the Crimson Tide had a chance to blow the game wide open, but it barely scratched the scoreboard.
After a perfect bunt by Demi Turner loaded the bases, Alabama brought power hitter Bailey Hemphill to the plate with just one out. Hemphill smacked a ball to the gap in left-centerfield that looked certain to score all three runners. It didn’t.
UCF’s Megan Greenwell went full-extension in the outfield to make a diving catch and rob the Alabama freshman, as a result UA scored only one run on a tag up from third. It was frustrating, but it was a sign of what was to come.
“Any time you can get good barrel on the ball you get that confidence, even if its not a hit,” Alabama’s Merris Schroder said. “Even if they make a good play, just getting the barrel on the ball against good pitching like today is a good confidence boost.”
The gates finally opened for the Crimson Tide in the bottom of the sixth when Schroder hit a home run to left field to give her team the 3-0 edge. UA added a run on a fielder’s choice later that inning.
Alabama pitcher Sydney Littlejohn made sure the Knights early defense didn’t matter. The senior cruised through all seven innings, striking out six without giving up a walk. Littlejohn’s win was her second complete-game shutout of the season, and after five starts she still has no earned runs.
“Sydney has the best moving curveball that I have ever seen,” Alabama pitcher Alexis Osorio said. “The way that she went out there today was energetic, and showed so much emotion and the passion that she has for this game.”
The Crimson Tide’s energy carried right over into the second game. Alabama scored three runs in the first inning to put Texas Tech into an early hole, but with ace Osorio on the mound run-support seemed like it would make little difference.
Osorio struck out 14 batters, including the entire Texas Tech lineup the first time through.
“It’s like watching Nolan Ryan,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. “I’m serious. We’re getting spoiled. One of her teammates was disappointed she didn’t get 15 strikeouts.”
Texas Tech’s only hit against Osorio came in the fourth inning when right fielder Kierra Miles hit a home run to left field, tightening the game at 4-2. Alabama got back one of those runs in the bottom of the fourth, and buried the Red Raiders after Schroder hit her second home run of the night to start the fifth.
“I told (Merris) after the game that I had been watching that for a year-and-a half,” Murphy said. “Now it’s time for everybody else to see.”