COLUMBIA, Mo. — The Alabama softball team trailed twice in Wednesday’s opening game of the SEC Tournament against Auburn but the Crimson Tide used a fifth-inning rally and some clutch bullpen pitching down the stretch to ultimately claim the 6-4 comeback victory.
Alabama (33-17) and Auburn (40-14) each scored two runs in the first inning, with the Tide’s runs coming off a two-run home run from sophomore Bailey Hemphill. A two-run home run in the top of the fifth gave the Tigers a 4-2 lead but Alabama immediately answered with three in the bottom of the fifth and an insurance run in the sixth to take the score to its final tally, 6-4.
In addition to Hemphill, sophomore Elissa Brown also drove in a pair of runs on a game-tying double in the fifth inning. Junior Merris Schroder went 2-for-3 batting eighth, driving in the final run of the day for Alabama with an RBI single in the sixth. Senior Alexis Osorio started the game but exited the game after Auburn took a 4-2 lead. Freshman Madison Preston (7-5) threw two shutout innings in relief to earn the win while Osorio eventually re-entered to secure the final two outs and earn her fifth save of the season.
Auburn threatened early, loading the bases with a pair of walks and a two-out fielding error. Alyssa Rivera made the Tide pay for the error, driving in a pair of unearned runs on a single to give the Tigers the early 2-0 lead. With two out in the bottom of the first, freshman Kaylee Tow drew a walk and set up Hemphill for a line-drive home run to tie the game 2-2.
Still tied in the top of the fifth, Auburn drew a leadoff walk before Casey McCrackin sent a two-run home run over the fence in center field as the Tigers pulled ahead, 4-2. After back-to-back walks, Alabama turned to Preston in relief with two on and nobody out. The lefty did her job out of the bullpen, posting three-straight outs to end the half-inning.
Junior Reagan Dykes led off the bottom of the fifth with a double in the gap and Schroder followed with a single up the middle to put runners at the corners for Alabama. That ended Kaylee Carlson’s outing in the circle as Makayla Martin entered in relief. Junior pinch-hitter Caroline Hardy fought through an eight-pitch at-bat to load the bases and turn it back to the top of the order. A wild pitch moved all three runners up 60 feet to score a run and cut the deficit to 4-3 before Brown ripped a hard-hit double off the diving shortstop’s glove to drive in two and give Alabama the 5-4 lead.
Alabama advances to play top-seed Florida (47-8, 20-4 SEC) Thursday, May 10 at 6:30 p.m. live on the SEC Network.