The Alabama softball team took some risks Sunday.
The Crimson Tide wanted extra bases because it wanted to turn them into runs. Alabama was willing to sacrifice a few outs to get them.
It needed every one of them. The 17th-ranked Crimson Tide took aggressive chances and made good on enough of them for a 5-4 extra-inning victory over ninth-ranked Texas A&M to complete a sweep of the Aggies in front of a crowd of 3,010 at Rhoads Stadium.
Demi Turner hit a walk-off RBI single through the right side of the infield in the bottom of the eighth inning to drive in outfielder Merris Schroder to end it. Turner, a senior second baseman, went 4-for-5 in her final regular-season home game.
“To go out with a win like that and sweep A&M like that, it’s great for all of us, especially going into postseason,” Turner said.
Alabama (32-17) closed out the regular season at 12-12 in SEC play, avoiding a first-ever losing record in the conference and gaining momentum going into the postseason. The Crimson Tide will play Auburn at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the SEC Tournament in Columbia, Mo.
Alabama went from one strike away from winning by a comfortable three runs to having the game tied, then watching the Aggies load the bases with a chance to take the lead, to winning dramatically.
“With six seniors and a big crowd, a great series, a good opponent, all that stuff, everything goes into it,” UA coach Patrick Murphy said. “In softball the emotions are so much higher and so much lower because it can change on a dime.”
Alexis Osorio was one strike away from giving Alabama a 4-1 win in the bottom of the seventh when Tori Vidales hit a three-run home run to tie the game. The Aggies drew three walks off freshman reliever Madison Preston before she coaxed a fly-out to right field that defensive substitute Rachel Bobo caught on the run.
Alabama didn’t score in the bottom of the seventh, and Courtney Gettins (13-4) came out of the bullpen to pitch a hitless eighth to set up the dramatic victory.
Schroder hit a single up the middle to lead off the bottom of the final inning. Murphy called for a two-strike bunt that failed – a boldly aggressive move – but she advanced to second on a groundout and scored on Turner’s two-out hit.
Alabama set its aggressive tone from the bottom of the first inning. Leadoff hitter Elissa Brown reached on an infield single and motored all the way to third base when Turner hit a high-bouncing infield single of her own. Alabama loaded the bases with no outs but only got one run, that coming when Brown scored on Gabby Callaway’s soft single to right field.
Brown took another chance when she tried to move to third on another infield single in the second, but was caught in a rundown and thrown out.
The Crimson Tide loaded the bases again in the third to double its lead. Pinch runner K.B. Sides scored from third on a sacrifice fly from catcher Reagan Dykes.
In the fourth, Brown got thrown out at second trying to stretch a single into a double, but the Crimson Tide didn’t get timid. Turner, who come up next, dropped a hit in short left field and turned it into a two-out double by beating the throw to second. Freshman outfielder Kaylee Tow cashed in that extra base with an RBI single to give Alabama a 3-0 lead.
Murphy encourages his team to take chances.
“Just make them make the play,” Murphy said. “If you yell at somebody for that even one time, the next kid’s not going to try it.”
Alabama’s fourth run came by more conventional calculation. Callaway hit a leadoff double in the fifth, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Dykes and scored on a sacrifice fly from Schroder.
A&M came to life in the sixth when Samantha Show hit an RBI single.
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.