While the former All-American upperclassmen struggle, it is the young-uns who are picking up the slack. Kaylee Tow and Bailey Hemphil have not quite looked like themselves so far this season. Thankfully for the Crimson Tide, the freshmen came up with big plays this weekend.
GAME 1 - Arkansas 1, Alabama 0
Arkansas pitcher Autumn Storms (10-2) rained down on the Crimson Tide as she tossed a dominating shutout against some frigid Alabama bats. The Tide managed only five singles and three of them came from KB Sides.
Despite allowing only five hits herself, Montana Fouts got herself into plenty of jams allowing the leadoff hitter to reach base in five out of seven innings via hits or walks. After pressing her luck, Arkansas finally broke through in the seventh with a walk and a pair of singles. Krystal Goodman would get the final two outs, but Bama could do nothing in the bottom of the inning to prevent the loss.
!!The Hiceman Cometh!!
GAME 2 - Alabama 10 Arkansas 2 (6 innings)
Alabama’s Lexi Kilfoyl committed the cardinal sin in walking the leadoff batter of the game. That runner would come around to score, as would another Razorback for an early 2-0 lead. Fortunately for the Tide, Arky mysteriously countered with their third best pitcher after using their ace in Game 1. Alabama would quickly tie it up thanks to walks and hits but left runners at second and third in the opening frame. The first four Bama hitters would reach base in the third and the Hogs finally brought in second best pitcher, Mary Haff. Much like the Alabama pitchers, she is better as a starter than a reliever. The Crimson Tide would push two more runs across the plate to take a 5-2 lead. Kilfoyl would settle in, allowing only two singles and denying Arkansas second base the rest of the way.
Jenna Johnson led off the sixth with a bomb to left center field for her first homer of the season and third RBI. After an Abby Doerr single, the Razorbacks brought in their fourth best pitcher who induced a ground out. Up next, Alexis Mack on her Senior Day would do what she does best, reaching base on a bunt single. Her blazing speed caused the third baseman to rush her throw and the ball would trickle off the first baseman’s glove and into the outfield, allowing Doerr to score and sending Mack to second. From there, the dam burst opened with freshman catcher Karl Hice wrapping up the scoring on a walk-off RBI pinch hit that triggered the mercy rule.
Both 2B Savannah Woodard and 3B Maddie Morgan had slick plays in the infield as the defense continues to improve. The Tide would commit no errors on Saturday.
!!Cold as Hice!!
GAME 3 - Alabama 10 Arkansas 2 (6 innings)
I don’t know what Patrick Murphy said to his team or fed them for breakfast but Tide fans hope he’ll keep it up. Against the very same pitcher who shut them down on Friday, the Crimson Tide badgered Autumn Storms with seven hits and seven runs in two and a third innings. Bama small balled one run in the first. Arky came back with one run of their own in the top of the second but that would be all Lexi Kilfoyl would yield on the day. Bama scored three in the bottom half of that frame highlighted by a two-run single by KB Sides. An RBI single in the third would chase Storms from the game but it wasn’t time to close the book on her yet. Reliever Mary Haff got Doerr out on strikes but Wallace walked and Mack cleared the bases with a triple (see below) to make it an 8-1 Alabama advantage. Another Arky pitching change settled things down until the sixth when freshman Jenna Johnson lined a dribbler that went right between the third baseman’s legs. Johnson, in complete hustle mode, made it all the way around to second base on the play. That is when fellow freshman Karla Hice came on and wrapped up the run rule triumph with a single to center.
After a slow start on Friday, the Tide played some excellent softball in the next two games. Hitting, pitching, fielding, and baserunning all came together on Saturday and continued onto Sunday. Bama will need to keep that momentum going as another Top 10 team comes to town next weekend.
STATS AND STUFF
- Alabama is now a 14-8 on the season with nine of the victories being shortened by the run rule. However, they are 1-5 in one run games. The Tide has shown that they can absolutely dominate but sometimes come out flat. Consistency will be a key to a championship run.
- In Game 1, Patrick Murphy went back to the lineup from last weekend of Mack-Wallace-Sides-Hemphill-Morgan-Tow that was not so productive. For the second two games, he flip-flopped Wallace and Mack and the results are evident. The duo were a combined 9 for 14 on Saturday and Sunday and scored six runs.
- Hemphill uncharacteristically went 0-for Arkansas. She did not record a single hit though she did send a couple of fly balls to the outfield wall. There is no excuse of pitchers pitching around her this weekend as the Razorbacks went right at her for the most part and only walked her once.
- Kaylee Tow also struggled finishing with two singles and a walk in 11 plate appearances. She also struck out three times.
- Jenna Johnson was 3 for 9 with a double, home run, three runs scored and two RBI. Her swing even looked good on some of the outs she made. Might we see her move up in the order?
- Johnson’s four-bagger in Game 2 brings Alabama’s season home run total to ten. They are way behind the pace of last year’s team that tallied 89 round trippers in just 70 games.
- KB Sides did not want the weekend to end. She was on fire slugging seven hits in nine at-bats plus two walks. She had at least two hits in all three games.
- After and 0-fer in Game 1, Alexis Mack bounced back with 3 for 4 performances in both Games 2 and 3.
- Maddie Morgan had the only two errors of the series for Alabama, which is uncommon for her.
- Murphy once again used pitcher Sarah Cornell as a pinch runner. This 5th inning move in Game 1 came with pinchrunner extraordinaire Mary Greg Anderson (7 runs scored) still available. Generally speaking, it is not the smartest move to use a pitcher in this way and open her up to injuries. Furthermore, is Cornell that much better of a baserunner than Abby Doerr? If you saw Game 2, you know the answer is “no”. I have a theory that Murphy is trying to placate the outspoken senior with pinch appearances so she doesn’t recognize her diminishing role on the team.
- It is unclear what Murphy thought he saw but in the same inning as above, he opted to take the bat out of the hands of one of the Tide’s most productive players, senior Alexis Mack. In a scoreless game with one on and one out, the Tide manager sent hitless Kyra Lockhart to the plate in her stead and she promptly struck out. It is an odd substitution to make to begin with. If one is foolish enough to make such a move against a hot pitcher, why not go with senior Taylor Clark (.269, 2 doubles, 2 HR, 6 RBI)?
- On the other hand, Murphy must have seen something in practice this past week, utilizing Hice as a pinch-hitter to great effect. The back-up freshman catcher has recorded an RBI hit in 3 of her 4 at bats this season. Both times in this series, she hit for Savannah Woodard.
- It is high time we start a Karla Hice Fan Club. Let us know your t-shirt design ideas. I’m thinking “Cold As Hice”, “The Hiceman Cometh”, or “Hice Hice Baby”.
The Crimson Tide hosts their third and final home tournament of the season in the “T-Town Showdown” which includes a duet of battles with Texas (24-3). BYU (14-9) and Bryant (3-10) will also participate.
March 12, 2020 (Thurs) 6 p.m. CT vs BYU
March 13, 2020 (Fri) 6 p.m. CT vs Texas
March 14, 2020 (Sat) 4 p.m. CT vs Bryant
March 15, 2020 (Sun) 1 p.m. CT vs Texas
All games should be available on SECN+.