Softball begins road stretch with series loss in Knoxville

Dean Harrell, Contributing Writer

Continuing conference play, the No. 13 Alabama softball team (24-10) began its two-week long road trip in Knoxville, Tennessee, facing off against the No. 2 Tennessee Volunteers (26-2) March 24-26.  

Being one of the toughest road trips of the year, the Crimson Tide was not able to come out successful, losing two of the three games in the series. However, with one win, Alabama was able to prove that the Southeastern Conference is up for grabs for anyone. 

Game one: 

For the first matchup of the weekend series, it was a rather disappointing start for the Crimson Tide. With the bats not seeming to be going all night long, Alabama dropped the first game to the Volunteers with a 5-1 loss.  

Tennessee was held scoreless through the first two innings, keeping the game close. However, after a sacrifice fly and an RBI single by the Volunteers, it would take a quick two-run lead in the third inning. A lead that Alabama did not respond to until the final inning. 

While only picking up three total hits in the game, the last hit of the game for the Crimson Tide was perhaps the only light that head coach Patrick Murphy’s squad had throughout the matchup. Junior Bailey Dowling gave her team something positive to go out on with a solo home run in the top of the seventh inning to put Alabama’s first and only run on the board. 

Game two: 

Coming off the poor performance on Friday, Alabama needed a response to gain some momentum for the rest of the series. When it needed it most, the Crimson Tide got what it asked for and retaliated against Tennessee with a 4-2 victory on Saturday. 

Starting off slowly in the previous game, Alabama did quite the opposite in the second matchup of the series after sophomore Kali Heivilin drilled a solo home run to left field to open up the game and to put the first run on the board for her team.  

Tennessee responded to the early home run with a couple runs of its own. An RBI single by junior Zaida Puni brought home two for the Volunteers to take the lead in the bottom of the first inning. However, the quick scoring response by Tennessee ended up being the last runs it would score.  

Fighting back against the Volunteers once again, the Crimson Tide scored two runs of its own in the third inning following an RBI single by freshman Kenleigh Cahalan and a fielder’s choice ground ball by Heivilin, tallying her second RBI of the game and to regain the lead.  

Finishing the Volunteers off, senior Jenna Johnson tacked on to the lead with an RBI single to bring home graduate Ally Shipman for the fourth and final run of the game for Murphy’s team.  

With a stellar performance in the circle, sophomore Alex Salter picked up her first career conference win. Salter controlled the Volunteers all game long and held them to only two runs off of five hits. 

Game three: 

For the third and final matchup of the series, the Crimson Tide aimed to continue its momentum from the previous game and win the series. However, the Volunteers roared back one last time and defeated Alabama 7-5. 

After a scoreless first inning, the Crimson Tide struck first with two runs in the second inning. Senior Ally Shipman picked up the first hit for Alabama with a double, only to be followed by a back-to-back double by graduate Ashley Prange to bring home Shipman for the first run of the game. The Crimson Tide would proceed to load the bases, and a walk from freshman Larissa Prueitt brought home Prange to make it a 2-0 lead.  

With every run Alabama scored, Tennessee always seemed to find a response to it. In the bottom of the third inning, the Volunteers got the response they were looking for with a three-run blast by senior Kiki Milloy to put her team ahead 3-2 in the inning. However, Tennessee did not stop there, as junior Giulia Koutsoyanopulos singled to bring home two more for the Volunteers to make it a 5-2 game.  

After the big five-run inning by the Volunteers, they were able to continue to add to their increasing lead with two more runs in the fourth inning to take a controlling 7-2 lead over Alabama.  

Down, but certainly not out, the Crimson Tide continued to fight back against Tennessee with two huge home runs in the fifth inning. The first being a solo home run from Cahalan and the second being a two-run shot by Bailey Dowling to put her team back in the game, only down by two runs.  

However, the fire had run out for Alabama, as the sixth and seventh inning ended up scoreless, and the Volunteers would take the final game and win the series.  

The Crimson Tide will continue the conference road trip to Columbia, Missouri, next weekend as it will face off against the Missouri Tigers, starting on Friday, March 31, at 6 p.m. CT. 

UA Athletics did not respond to request for comment on this story

Questions or comments? Email Blake Byler (Sports Editor) at [email protected]