No. 5 Alabama won a close series versus the No. 8 Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, Georgia this weekend. The Tide took two of three from the Bulldogs to improve to 20-5 (5-1 SEC). All three games came down to the wire in the top-10 matchup, with none of the games being decided before the sixth inning.
Alabama rallied from a 4-3 deficit in the seventh to send the game into extra innings, where the Tide would eventually win 7-4. Georgia jumped out in front early, taking a 3-1 lead into the fourth inning, behind two sacrifice flies from Alex Hugo and an RBI single from Paige Wilson. In the fourth, Alabama's Danae Hays doubled with one out and Leona Lafaele smoked a line drive home run to left field to tie the game. Georgia responded quickly in the bottom of the fourth behind a solo home run from Anna Swafford.
Down to their last three outs, the Crimson Tide rallied in the top of the seventh. UGA pitcher Chelsea Wilkinson hit Lafaele with the first pitch of the inning. Andrea Hawkins came in to pinch-run for Lafaele. Hawkins advanced to second after a sacrifice from Kallie Case. A groundout advanced Hawkins to third with two outs and brought up Alabama's best offensive player Haylie McCleney. The Bulldogs intentionally walked McCleney, and McCleney promptly stole second base to put added pressure on Wilkinson. Demi Turner ripped a single down the third base line to score Hawkins and tie the game at four. Alabama was unable to score McCleney. Georgia failed to score in the bottom of the seventh, and the game entered extra innings.
Alabama pulled the game out in the top of the ninth. After a futile eighth-inning effort from both squads, Alabama's offense exploded in the ninth. With two outs, it looked like Georgia would have a chance to crack open the tie in the bottom of the ninth. Then, Turner smashed a solo home run to right field to give Alabama the 5-4 lead. Jadyn Spencer followed with a solo shot of her own to add another run to the Crimson Tide's lead. Hays would add another run by way of an RBI triple. The 7-4 lead is all the Tide would need.
Crimson Tide starter Alexis Osorio found a new gear after the fourth inning. Osorio retired 18 consecutive batters against a prolific Georgia offense to finish the complete game in extra innings. Osorio finished the game with four earned runs, eight strikeouts, no walks and pitched all nine innings.
Georgia responded to Alabama's comeback victory with one of their own. Alabama held a 6-2 lead in the top of the fifth behind some sloppy defense from the Bulldogs, a pair of RBI base-hits from Turner and McCleney and a two-run home run from Marisa Runyon. Georgia's offense clicked in the bottom of the fifth. With two runners on, Sydni Emanuel hit a double to center field to cut the lead to 6-3. A wild pitch from starter Leslie Jury cut Alabama's lead to 6-4. After Wilson reached on a squeeze play, Jury was replaced in favor of Crimson Tide ace Sydney Littlejohn. Littlejohn escaped the inning with no further damage.
Georgia tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth by way of a pinch-hit home run from Kaylee Puailoa.
After Littlejohn gave up a bunt single, Alabama turned to Osorio to get the save in the seventh inning. Osorio walked the first batter she faced and allowed another bunt single to load the bases with no outs. The Tide turned to Littlejohn once again to close out the game. Hugo hit a sacrifice fly to right field to tie the game at 6-6. Swafford hit a game winning RBI single to give the Bulldogs a 7-6 victory. Littlejohn suffered her first loss of the season.
Kallie Case was Alabama's hero in the third game of the series. Alabama got out to another early lead, taking a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth. Hugo cut the Tide lead in half with a solo home run, but Alabama starter Osorio bared down and escaped the inning without any more damage.
In the bottom of the fifth, Wilson hit a two-out RBI single to tie the game at 2-2. Osorio intentionally walked Hugo to load the bases. Osorio dug deep once again to escape the jam.
It looked like Georgia would cruise through the top of the sixth until Alabama's Chaunsey Bell reached on a fielding error. The error would prove to be costly. Case came up to bat with two outs and one on. Case smoked a home run to right field to give Alabama a 4-2 lead.
With the lead holding steady at 4-2, Georgia came to the plate with a chance in the bottom of the seventh. Osorio walked the first Georgia batter and allowed a single to the next to put two on with none out. The Tide turned to Jury to close out the game. This time the late pitching change worked for Alabama. Jury quickly racked up a strikeout and a groundout. With two outs and first base open, Alabama once again chose to intentionally walk Hugo. Savannah McHellon battled with the bases loaded and two outs to work a full count. Jury finally came out on top after the long at bat, forcing McHellon to check her swing on a called third strike, to seal the game and series for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama starts a long home stand this week. The Tide will play Georgia State Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT. After the midweek game, Alabama hosts Florida in a weekend battle between the SEC's top two teams. The series starts Saturday at 1 p.m. CT, followed by game two Sunday at 4:30 p.m. CT with the series finale Monday at 6 p.m. CT. Saturday and Sunday's games will be televised on ESPNU with Monday night's finale on SECNetwork. Tickets are available online here and in person at the gate prior to the game. Personally, I would recommend buying tickets in advance since the Florida series is such an important matchup and a huge rivalry. Rhoads Stadium will be packed.