TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The top seeded Alabama softball team jumped out to an early lead and never looked back en route to a 10-1, run-rule victory over the Florida Gators in the Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship Game. The SEC tournament title was the fifth for the Crimson Tide, putting them into a tie with LSU for most overall.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our team,” Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. “Those seniors, Kendall Dawson, Jennifer Fenton, Cassie Reilly-Boccia, Jazlyn Lunceford, Olivia Gibson, and Amanda Locke, they went out and did it today. It was just a great team win.”
With the win, Alabama improved to 50-7 on the year, while Florida falls to 46-11. It was the second time that Alabama has won the regular season title and the tournament title in the same season, as they had previously accomplished the feat in 2010.
Senior Amanda Locke threw five innings of three-hit ball for Alabama, giving up just the one unearned run to improve to 4-1 on the year. Florida pitcher Lauren Haeger gave up eight runs on six hits to fall to 14-5.
Alabama cranked out eight hits on the day, including three hits and four runs batted in by sophomore Kaila Hunt, who was also named to the All-Tournament Team. Hunt finished the tournament with seven runs batted in. Senior Jennifer Fenton, junior Kayla Braud and sophomore Jackie Traina were also named to the All-Tournament team, while Traina was named the Most Valuable Player.
Alabama jumped out on top in the first inning. Junior Kayla Braud led off with a walk and advanced to second on senior Jennifer Fenton’s slap single up the middle. Both came around to score when Hunt hit a triple into the gap in right field to give Alabama a 2-0 lead. The two first inning runs bring Alabama’s total to 99 in the opening frame.
After giving up a run in the top of the second inning to cut into the lead, Alabama went back to work in the bottom of the third inning. Braud led off with a walk and stole second, her 36th stolen base on the year. She came around to score on a Hunt single, making the lead, 3-1. After Locke hit a single, senior Jazlyn Lunceford hit a three-run blast to the scoreboard to put Alabama up 6-1. Junior Courtney Conley then drew a walk, setting the stage for senior Kendall Dawson, to hit a two-run home run that extended the lead to 8-1.
Alabama kept up the offense in the bottom of the fourth inning. Hunt hit another RBI single to extend the lead to 9-1, and senior Cassie Reilly-Boccia followed up with a RBI single of her own to make it 10-1.
Locke loaded the bases in the top of the fifth with two outs, but was able to induce a fly out to end the game. It was the first time that the SEC Tournament title was decided by run rule and won by the host team.
The weekend set a three-day attendance record for the SEC Tournament, with 10,044 fans attending the games at Rhoads Stadium.
“The fans have supported us like none other,” Murphy said. “My vote is to leave the tournament here every single year, if I have a vote. I thought that yesterday was awesome, but today was even better and even more fun. It’s the 40th anniversary of Title IX, so to have this type of crowd and this type of media presence for women’s softball is just incredible in my mind.”
Alabama will wait for Selection Sunday tomorrow to find out its NCAA opponents. The field of 64 will announced on ESPNU at 9.m. CT.
2012 SEC Softball All-Tournament Team
Tennessee – Madison Shipman
Tennessee – Raven Chavanne
Georgia – Paige Wilson
Georgia – Erin Arevalo
Florida – Sami Fagan
Florida – Lauren Haeger
Florida – Cheyenne Coyle
Alabama – Kayla Braud
Alabama – Jennifer Fenton
Alabama – Kaila Hunt
Alabama – Jackie Traina (Tournament MVP)