When the University of Alabama softball team loaded the bases Saturday night in front of a sellout crowd of 4,015 at Rhoads Stadium, the Crimson Tide struck out.
When the Auburn Tigers loaded the bases, they plated four runs.
That was the difference in Auburn’s 4-1 victory, which gave the Tigers their first-ever series win in Tuscaloosa in a rivalry that dates back to the start of each program in 1997. It also extended Alabama’s losing streak to four games, the longest for the Crimson Tide since the 2013 season.
No. 14 Alabama (39-15, 11-11 in SEC play) will try to salvage a victory against its cross-state nemesis today at noon. Ninth-ranked Auburn improved to 45-8, 17-6.
The difference in the fortunes of the two teams – both in this game and on the season – told in what each did with its best chance.
Auburn loaded the bases in the top of the fifth on three one-out singles: two bloopers and a bunt. Alabama pitcher Sydney Littlejohn got a strikeout, then walked in a run.
The Crimson Tide might have been able to overcome that, but Tigers outfielder Alyssa Rivera broke it open when she roped a double through the gap in left-center to clear the base paths.
For Auburn, bases-loaded situation mushroomed into a four-run lead. That’s not how it worked for UA.
Alabama, which is 3-7 in its last 10 games, can’t buy a key hit. It showed in the bottom of the fifth, when the Crimson Tide had its best chance to do any major damage.
Outfielder Gabby Callaway hit a leadoff single, and Merris Schroder added another with one out. That brought up the top of the batting order, and Elissa Brown dropped a sacrifice bunt that moved Schroder to second. Bailey Hemphill walked to load the bases.
Catcher Reagan Dykes worked a full count off Auburn starter Makayla Martin (18-5) and fouled off a pitch. She struck out swinging on the next offering, stranding the baserunners.
Alabama did scratch out a run in the sixth, but only after hitting into a double play to chill a chance at a big inning. Shortstop Sydney Booker – who turned two double plays and made a couple of other nice defensive stops – ripped a triple down the right-field line. She scored on Callaway’s single to third base. A groundout ended the inning.
Alabama gave itself a last chance in the bottom of the seventh, bringing the potential tying run to the plate. Second baseman Claire Jenkins beat out a leadoff bunt single, forcing Auburn to turn to ace Kaylee Carlson in relief. Brown beat out an single to put runners on first and second.
A fly ball moved Jenkins to third, giving UA runners on the corners.
An infield pop-up and a slow grounder ended the game.
Littlejohn came into the game with a 1.09 earned-run average and left with a 14-7 record, an indication of how little offensive support UA’s pitchers have received. She gave up four runs on eight hits with five strikeouts and one walk. Madi Moore got one strikeout in relief.
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-0224.