By Brad Cox
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Leading off the eighth inning, Alabama second baseman Skylar Wallace simply wanted to get on base and give the Crimson Tide a spark.
The freshman touched all four bags instead.
Wallace launched a monster solo homer to right field to give fourth-ranked Alabama a walk-off 2-1 victory over Georgia in a Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinal on Thursday night at Texas A&M’s Davis Diamond.
“Basically it was just get on base somehow and do whatever I needed to do,” Wallace said. “I knew (pitcher) Montana Fouts was working hard the whole game and I needed to start it off being the leadoff batter right there and swing hard. I kind of knew it was gone, but I was iffy about it because the wind was blowing in really hard. I didn’t want to get too crazy at the beginning think it was gone, but I kind of did know.”
The win propelled Alabama (51-6) to a semifinal meeting with either Kentucky or Ole Miss at 6 p.m. Friday. Those teams meet in the final quarterfinal at 10 a.m. Friday.
The extra-inning homer was actually Wallace’s second RBI of the game, though she didn’t have to take the bat off her shoulder for the first.
After 14th-ranked Georgia (40-17) found some gaps and pulled ahead 1-0 with back-to-back hits by Alyssa DiCarlo and Alysen Febrey in the fourth, the Tide wasted little time in finding an answer.
In the home half, Claire Jenkins drew a walk to lead things off before the throw to first on KB Sides’ sacrifice bunt attempt pulled first baseman Lacey Fincher off the bag and Reagan Dykes was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Maddie Morgan hit a deep flyout to left field before Wallace patiently waited out a four-pitch walk that brought in Jenkins to tie it and chase Bulldogs starting pitcher Mary Wilson Avant.
“She does not shy away from the big moment,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said of Wallace. “She’s done it time and time again. She had a big bases-loaded hit against Kentucky to win a game for us two weeks ago. She’s just a clutch kid and she likes that spotlight.”
Making her first SEC Tournament appearance, the freshman Fouts was stellar outside of the two-hit fourth that saw Georgia break the stalemate.
Fouts (15-3) surrendered just one walk in the second, one walk in the sixth, and worked out of a jam in the eighth after giving up a pair of two-out singles. She struck out nine and gave up the lone run on four hits and three walks.
“For the majority of the game I was just getting ahead of the batters,” Fouts said. “There were a few innings where I didn’t and that’s what hurt me a lot. For the most part I was just getting ahead.”
Alley Cutting took over for Avant in the fourth and kept Alabama off the board, accounting for much of the Tide’s 0-for-10 mark with runners in scoring position and 13 left on base, before giving up a leadoff walk in the seventh and being relieved by Kylie Bass.
Bass (12-4) got out of the jam in the seventh but gave up the winning homer to Wallace to take the loss.