The University of Alabama softball team came into SEC play very good at two things: getting runners on base, and leaving them there.
The ninth-ranked Crimson Tide had scored 132 runs and left 179 runners stranded – an average of better than seven per game – before Friday’s league opener against No. 24 Arkansas at Rhoads Stadium.
Alabama got them on again, and this time it drove them home for a 9-0 mercy-rule victory in five innings to run its winning streak to 15 in a row in front of a crowd of 2,454.
Alabama (22-2) loaded the bases in the second and fourth innings, and cashed in for three runs in each of those frames. The nine runs came on 10 total hits in a display of efficiency.
“I think it just was the start of SEC and everybody was fired up,” coach Patrick Murphy said. “I know they’ve been talking about it for a week now.”
When the talking was over, UA was ready for action.
Alabama took a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Demi Turner reached on error, moved to second on Chandler Dare’s sacrifice bunt and scored on a double from freshman Bailey Hemphill.
It was the start of a big night for Hemphill, who went 3-for-3 with four RBIs.
“It’s just been a goal for us to stop leaving runners in scoring position,” Hemphill said. “We’ve been working on it and working on it. Tonight, finally, our hits came together and things started clicking on all cylinders.”
Hemphill singled in two more runs in the second, after Razorbacks starter Grace Moll (7-1) loaded the bases and walked in a run. That put Alabama up 4-0.
UA added a run in the third, with first baseman Peyton Grantham hitting a double and scoring on a single from catcher Reagan Dykes.
In he fourth, Alabama loaded the bases again and kept driving in the runs, with Hemphill, Grantham and outfielder Merris Schroder all hitting RBI singles.
“Everyone’s been working hard,” Grantham said. “You come up here an hour-and-an-half before practice, there’s somebody hitting. You come up here an hour-and-a-half after practice, someone’s still here hitting. Nine o’clock at night, someone’s still up here. It’s nice to see it pay off.”
Leadoff batter Turner went 1-for-1 with two walks, scoring three times. Grantham went 2-for-3, as did Dykes.
Pitcher Alexis Osorio (11-1), who had been carrying the team with her high-strikeout performances, threw a quiet one-hitter, striking out eight with four walks.
Arkansas (19-2) had an 11-game winning streak snapped.
The series will resume Saturday at 5 p.m.