Alabama softball tournament run cut short by the Lady Volunteers


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Dean Harrell , Contributing Writer

The reward for defeating a tough Arkansas Razorback team in the quarterfinals for the Crimson Tide was a matchup with the No. 1 Tennessee Lady Volunteers. 

Despite an early hot start for the Alabama lineup, the Crimson Tide could not close out the game and suffered a 7-6 loss, ending its conference tournament run. 

The Crimson Tide has made it a priority to score early in ballgames, and the opening frame of this crucial matchup was nothing short of that. 

Alabama put up a huge four-run start in the top half of the first inning. Sloppy pitching by the Lady Volunteers resulted in a bases-loaded walk to bring home senior Jenna Johnson for the first run of the ball game. A wild pitch soon after brought home freshman Larissa Preuitt.  

The rare catch-and-carry rule came into play in the first inning. A lingering pop-up into foul territory resulted in Tennessee third baseman Zaida Puni making the catch and taking a step into the dugout.  

Under the rule, if a ball is caught in play and is brought out of play, the out is awarded, but all runners advance. This allowed the Crimson Tide to tack on another run.  

Just as Alabama began to feel comfortable with its huge momentum in the top half of the first inning, the Lady Volunteers came back with a fury. After a quick two outs, a double and two back-to-back walks in the bottom half of the inning. This left the bases loaded for sophomore Lair Beautae, who crushed a ball over the center field fence for a grand slam to tie the game at 4. 

Head coach Patrick Murphy said his team needs to do better with critical in-game scenarios.  

“We need to keep the ball in the park, but we also need to finish lineups when we get two outs,” Murphy said. “The first two kids got out and they scored four runs, so we have to be better at that.” 

The long ball continued to be a trend for Tennessee, as senior Kiki Milloy drilled a two-out bomb to left field to take the lead for the Lady Volunteers in the second inning. Sophomore Katie Taylor also contributed to that trend with a two-run blast in the fourth inning, further extending the lead to 7-4. 

However, Tennessee was not the only team able to put one over the fence. Graduate student Ashley Prange, who has been one of the Crimson Tide’s best hitters all tournament, demolished a two-run home run in the fifth inning. This immediately put the pressure back on and made it a 7-6 ballgame.  

Even with the late-game momentum boost from Prange’s homerun, Murphy’s squad could not add on to the scoreboard in the final two innings and took a tough 7-6 loss.  

“Three innings in a row where we were shut out; that to me was the biggest part of the game,” Murphy said. “They punched back, and then we didn’t do much. We got to do better with that.” 

Veteran leader Johnson noted the many positive attributes that her team has expressed over the tournament run. 

“We found grit, we found passion, we found heart. Our leader went down, and we had people step up,” Johnson said. “We’re not going to hang our heads on this loss tonight. We stayed with a really good Tennessee team and competed with an Arkansas team last night in a great environment, a great place, a great campus and a great stadium.” 

As for the Crimson Tide’s next appearance, Alabama will learn its seeding during the 2023 NCAA college softball selection show, which will air Sunday at 6 p.m. CT.