Softball: Alabama comes back to beat UAB

UAB softball coach Marla Townsend mentioned in a story before the Blazers' face-off against Alabama that it was great that the Crimson Tide would be playing in UAB's inaugural game in the new softball stadium. After all, as the coach noted, UAB was the first opponent Bama faced when the Tide opened up its softball complex. That game was a good win for Alabama. Would Tuesday's game be the same?

UA didn't cut corners, putting ace pitcher Kelsi Dunne in the circle. After Bama left three runners on base in the top of the first, she took the field and shut down the Blazers' first chance to score some runs, striking out two. In the second inning, UAB defensive miscues gave the Tide all it needed. Third baseman Courtney Conley walked to lead off, and moved on to second on an illegal pitch. The next batter, catcher Kendall Dawson, also walked. The subsequent single from centerfielder Jennifer Fenton scored Conley as an unearned run via a throwing error by the Blazers, Bama's only run of the inning.

Dunne came back up and was masterful, throwing three consecutive strikeouts. Alabama couldn't get anything going in the top of the third, but UAB proved it would be no pushover. With two outs, centerfielder Martina Landrum singled, followed by a walk given to leftfielder Caley Walden. In earlier posts, I said that when Dunne makes mistakes -- which she rarely does -- they're big. Yet another exhibit for the prosecution: After Walden walked, third baseman Cameron Skates sent a home run over the left field fence to put the Blazers up 3-1. None of the runs were earned, though, so Dunne still has a nasty (in a good way) ERA.

Again, in the fourth, Bama couldn't get anything going. Fortunately for the Tide, neither could UAB. With the exception of one walk, Dunne put the hammer down and struck out the other three batters. By the fifth inning, Alabama's offense appeared to get out of its funk and got going. First baseman Charlotte Morgan walked, then was pinch run for by Lisa Elizondo. Shortstop Whitney Larsen came up and singled, making it runners on first and second for designated player Alex Blewitt. True to form, Blewitt hit a RBI single, scoring Elizondo and moving Larsen over to third base. At that point, there was another runner substitution as Keima Davis came on to run for Blewitt. Luckily for the Tide, UAB was still getting its defensive legs under it, and a throwing error from the outfield after a single by Conley allowed both Larsen and Davis to score. A double by Fenton put Conley across the plate and as easy as that, Bama had a 5-3 lead.

Two more strikeouts and a fly-out for Dunne gave Alabama the chance to definitively put it away in the sixth inning, which the team did. Designated player Cassie Reilly-Boccia walked and took second base on a passed ball. Leftfielder Jazlyn Lunceford walked as well, giving the Tide two runners with no outs. That didn't last long, as one out went on the board, but after both runners advanced, Larsen singled to drive in Reilly-Boccia. A ground-out by Blewitt scored Lunceford, and that was that. A 7-3 win that was much closer than the scoreline would suggest.


Final - 02.23.2010 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 R H E
Alabama Crimson Tide
0 1 0 0 4 2 0 7 8 1
UAB Blazers
0 0 3 0 0 0 0 3 2 4
WP: Kelsi Dunne (4 - 2)
LP: Alisha Smith (2 - 3)

===

For what it's worth, I think this game says a lot more about UAB than it does about Alabama. We've seen Bama get it on after the Missouri series, and I think this team has got what it takes to make it back to the Women's College World Series, one way or another. As for the Blazers, they've been playing in a public park, only now getting a dedicated field. That's -- um, what's the word? Wrong. UAB's coach has been at the helm for a dozen years and only now gets a legit field for her team? Hey, we're from Birmingham. We know things go pear-shaped pretty easily in the Magic City, but damn. Regardless, good luck to Coach Townsend's squad for the rest of the year.

Alabama is heading off to the NFCA Leadoff Classic in Columbus, Ga. on Friday, and we'll do our best to have a preview up this evening. It's going to be another of those back-to-back doubleheader affairs, with the Tide playing Maryland, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska and Central Florida over three days.

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