Team26 Crimson Tide came up big against a tough Virginia Tech team. The Hokies were riding high after defeating three ranked teams - #20 Kentucky, #9/10 Mizzou, #21/24 Northwestern - in Week One.
GAME 1: ALABAMA 10, EVANSVILLE 2 (6 Innings)
Before the main event, Alabama faced Evansville on Friday afternoon.
The Crimson Tide got off to an odd start, scoring three runs in the first inning without benefit of a hit. Evansville pitcher Izzy Vetter walked three and hit three Bama batters with pitches, but also struck out three.
Jaala Torrence got the start in the circle for the Tide along with a surprise start behind the plate by freshman Aubrey Barnhart. After striking out three in the first inning amidst a single, Torrence allowed another single in the second. The base runner moved up to second in what was ruled a wild pitch but sure looked like a passed ball. The next batter hit a line drive that probably shoulda coulda been knocked down by first baseman Kaylee Tow. Right fielder Savannah Woodard got a great jump on the ball and threw a rocket home that short-hopped but was catchable. However, Barnhart could not handle the throw and the score went to 3-1.
With one out in the bottom of the inning, Dallis Goodnight bunt singled, stole second, and took third on an errant throw. Tow failed an RBI opportunity with a pop out. Regular catcher Ally Shipman ended Barnhart’s day with a pinch hit appearance that knocked in run number four with a single.
In between innings, the TV announcers talked with coach Patrick Murphy. When asked what he had seen from his team’s offense so far, his abrupt reply was “nothing!” Grumpy Murphy must have lit a fire under his team because they responded with four runs on five hits in the next inning. This outburst included a two-run home run by Shipman and a batted ball by Bailey Dowling that bounced off the top of the outfield fence and turned into a triple. She would later score.
Up 8-2 with one out in the fifth, Tow had a chance to end it with the bases jammed. She hit a RBI sac fly, but a hit would’ve won the game. Heroics would have to come in the form of a bases loaded walk by freshman Kali Heivilin in the next inning.
Torrence recorded career highs in strikeouts (10) and pitches thrown (114). She moves to 2-0 on the season.
GAME 2: ALABAMA 1, VIRGINIA TECH 0
Despite the smaller crowd and the frigid temperatures Friday evening, this game had all the feel of a postseason battle. Alabama’s Montana Fouts vs. VaTech’s Keely Rochard was a marquee match-up that did not disappoint.
Fouts looks like she has not missed a beat from last season, dominating the Hokies with 11 strikeouts and no walks while scattering three harmless singles on an economical 84 pitches. Rochard had 11 strikeouts of her own but made one mistake.
Bama broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the second with an RBI single by DH Abby Doerr. It was all Alabama needed to hand Virginia Tech their first loss of the season.
The Tide managed only two singles and four walks in the game.
* Following this game, Virginia Tech had to play another game versus Middle Tennessee and almost lost. The Hokies scored three in the bottom of the seventh capped by a two-out two-run walk-off homer for a 3-2 victory.
GAME 3: ALABAMA 2, VIRGINIA TECH 0
Lexi Kilfoyl flirted with danger for most of the game. In the opening frame, she allowed three straight singles. The fourth Hokies batter lined a ball to third baseman Ashley Prange who snared the ball in the air and tagged out the runner at third for a crucial double play. The next batter fouled out to end the threat. Kilfoyl got into more trouble in the fifth. After two singles and a strikeout, a Hokie singled to center, but a charging Dallis Goodnight made a perfect throw to home to cut down the runner at the plate. Tech put two on the bases in the sixth with one out and the Tide defense AGAIN bailed out their starting pitcher with a slick first to second Bloodworth rundown tag double play.
Alabama led off the second and fourth innings with doubles, but could not push a run across against fab freshman Emma Lemley. The crimson and white finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth when Prange led off with a single and Ally Shipman crushed a ball into the wind that still left the yard for a go-ahead two-run dinger. [Thank you, Transfer Portal!]
Kilfoyl retired the side in the seventh for her second win of the year.
The Hokies had base runners all over the place wasting nine hits and one walk.
Shipman was 2 for 3 - a double and a homer - with 2 RBI. Kaylee Tow recorded her first multi-base hit of the year (double).
*** Lollipop unicorn rainbow chasers, stop reading here lest ye get your feelings hurt! ***
- It was a little disappointing to not have a big crowd for opening day on Friday. However, it was a school day/work day and a smidge cold - high of 47° dropping into the 30s. Murphy looked like Santa Claus in his double padded coats.
- Alabama now has 12 home runs on the season.
- Despite sporting a giant brace on her left leg as an effect of last year’s ACL tear, Dowling showed fluidity on the base paths and fielded her position well.
- Saturday’s doubleheader was a sell out under sunny skies and the crowd was rocking.
- Perhaps Murphy learned something from Saban this past week too. Grumpy Murphy can be an effective tool.
- Kilfoyl struck out in both of her two at bats in Game 3. She batted instead of Goodnight. (sigh) smh. I just don’t get it...
- Saturday, Feb. 19 vs. Middle Tennessee (2-6) 4 p.m. CT
- Sunday, Feb. 20 vs. Middle Tennessee 1:30 p.m. CT
* Games stream on ESPN+/SEC+.