Junior Courtney Conley hit a solo home run in the bottom of the third inning to give Alabama a 1-0 lead at the SEC Softball Tournament. It turns out, that was all the Tide needed.
Aided by a shutout effort from ace right-hander Jackie Traina, No. 1 seed Alabama beat the No. 4 seed Georgia Bulldogs 1-0 to advance to the tournament finals on Saturday. The Tide will face the No. 3 seed Florida Gators at noon at Rhoads Stadium.
“That was a heck of a game. I think everyone got their money’s worth,” Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. “One mistake, probably, by their kid meant the game. And that’s fast pitch softball.”
Conley’s home run was the first Alabama hit of the day, and it would only register two more over the next six innings against Erin Arevalo, who pitched the whole game for Georgia.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play hard,” Conley said. “I just thought, ‘Up the middle, line drive up the middle.’ It felt good, obviously, to get a run for my team.”
Traina was under siege all day, but found a way to keep the shutout going. In the fourth inning, Georgia had runners on second and third with one out. A fielder’s choice and groundout later, the inning was over. In the fifth, the Bulldogs had a runner on third with two outs, but Traina forced the fly out.
And in the seventh inning, with one last chance to get a run on the board, Georgia had runners on first and second with no outs. But Traina, like she has been all season, was there to shut the door.
“You have to be a little more focused when runners are on,” Traina said. “You have to be a lot smarter when you pitch. You have to know who’s at bat. You have to think ahead, especially when you’re throwing pitches you want them to swing at.”
“I wish she’d get three up three down for sure, with no one on,” Murphy said, when asked if Traina gets better when there are runners in scoring position. “But yeah, I think so. It’s like the pressure sets in, there’s somebody on and then she goes to work.”
Standing in the Tide’s way for the SEC Tournament crown are the Florida Gators. Alabama took the season series from the Gators last weekend, winning two of the three games to clinch the regular season SEC title.
Now, the Tide will get another shot at the Gators – again with an SEC title on the line.
“It came down to it last weekend, we might as well do it again, right?” Murphy said. “We have great respect for their kids and their coaching staff. They do an awesome job. I hope this is it for the year, though, with us and Florida.”
The start time for the tournament final was moved to noon due to inclement weather. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
Filed Under: Softball