It wasn't exactly anything-can-happen Thursday on the opening day of the Southeastern Conference Softball Tournament, but a lot happened on the opening day at Rhoads Stadium at the University of Alabama to start off the sport's premier pre-NCAA Tournament postseason event.
Attendance records fell, with 2,691 on hand to witness the second session, featuring host Alabama against Mississippi State, and an impressive daytime crowd of 2,218 for the first session, with first-day attendance approaching 5,000.
The watchword for the day was competitve, with no threat of the mercy rule being invoked in any of the four games, but all of the top four seeds advanced without an upset.
The surprise of Day One was Tennessee's Holly Baker, inserted as a pinch runner and left in the lineup for defensive purposes, coming up with the biggest hit in the Lady Vols' 2-1 victory over Auburn. Baker smashed a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth that gave Tennessee the insurance it needed to survive Auburn's solo homer by Hilary Mavromat in the top of the seventh inning.
The emerging performer of Day One was Florida freshman pitcher Lauren Haeger, given the rock and coming out on top in a pitcher's duel with LSU's Brittany Mack and Rachele Fico in the Gators' 1-0 victory.
The play of the day came from Alabama left fielder Kayla Braud, who kick-started UA's 5-2 victory over Mississippi State with a splendid double play in the first inning. She came in on full run to making a diving snowcone catch of a line drive off the bat of MSU's Sam Lenahan. But Braud didn't stop there, popping up immediately to make a one-hop throw to first base to double up Heidi Shape, who had taken off for second base on the assumption that Lenehan's ball was going to fall in for a hit.
The comeback of the day fell short, but Kentucky shook off a 6-0 deficit against Georgia. The Wildcats got a solo home run from slugger Brittany Cervantes and then put together a three-run rally in the bottom of the seventh to cut the final deficit to 6-4.
What will happen in Friday's semifinal round? With Tennessee and Florida squaring off in the first game and Alabama vs. Georgia in the nightcap, Friday has a definitive Women's College World Series feel to it, for sure.