Everybody likes the long ball, but pitching and defense are what win championships in softball.
Day Two at the SEC Softball Tournament at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa had just enough of all three elements to make for some exciting, tension-filled action in the semifinal round.
Top seed Alabama and third seed Florida advanced to Saturday's championship game, which has been moved to noon CT due to weather problems expected later in the day. ESPN2 will televise.
Alabama turned in two more defensive gems to follow Kayla Braud's running, diving, catch-and-throw double play from left field against Mississippi State in Thursday's first-round game. This time it was right fielder Jazlyn Lunceford who made the dazzling play in the outfield, with second baseman Danae Hays going Willie Mays for an over-the-shoulder catch. Lunceford turned a possible leadoff double from Georgia into an out when she gloved the ball far up the right-field line and threw a strike to shortstop Kaila Hunt at second base to throw out Paige Wilson. Hays made her long-ranging catch in the grass of shallow center field to take away a hit from Ashley Razey that would have resulted in a run, with two Bulldogs on base.
The long ball also came into play in Alabama's 1-0 victory. Third baseman Courtney Conley launched a solo shot into orbit, clearing the scoreboard in left field for the game's only run.
Pitching was premium, with SEC Pitcher of the Year Jackie Traina throwing the shutout and working her way out of several sticky situations. It was Traina's fourth win in seven days.
Georgia's Erin Arevalo took a hard-luck loss, holding Alabama's potent bats to just three hits.
The Gators also won with the long ball. Pinch hitter Bailey Castro hit a solo shot to left-center in the top of the eighth inning to plate the winning run in a 2-1 victory that snapped Tennessee's 19-game winning streak.
Florida's pitching and defense has been strong enough to get UF to the championship round with just three runs in two days.
This time it was Hannah Rogers scattering four hits over seven innings and super-frosh Lauren Haeger throwing the final inning for the save.
Sister act Lady Vols Ivy and Ellen Renfroe were on the losing end of the pitchers' duel. Ivy held Florida to six hits and Ellen pitched the final two outs in relief.
There was also a milestone on Semifinal Friday, with Florida's Tim Walton notching his 500th career victory to get his team into the title game.
If the rain stays away, Day Three will be a rematch of last weekend's action, which saw Alabama bounce back from a Friday loss to take two of three from the Gators to clinch a third straight SEC championship.