Auburn beats Alabama to survive in the SEC Tournament

STARKVILLE, MS (Alabama Athletics) — Alabama softball fell in its SEC Tournament quarterfinal game against Auburn, 6-4, Friday afternoon at Nusz Park.

 Alabama (46-12) fell behind early with Auburn (47-9) scoring four in the bottom of the first. The teams traded runs for the remainder of the game with the Crimson Tide ultimately drawing within two in the close loss. Haylie McCleney and Andrea Hawkins each had multi-hit performances, with McCleney scoring two of the team’s four runs. Sydney Littlejohn (22-6) took the loss while Madi Moore pitched 3.1 effective shutout relief innings, holding the Tigers to just three hits. Rachael Walters (10-3) earned the win for Auburn while Makayla Martin posted her third save with 3.2 relief innings behind her.

Auburn wasted no time in the bottom of the first, leading off the inning with back-to-back infield singles and a walk to load the bases before Carlee Wallace laced a two-run double into the gap in left-center to make it 2-0 with two in scoring position and nobody out. A groundout moved the two runners up 60 feet, scoring one to make it 3-0, and a fielding error on the next play allowed another run to come home and make it a four-run game.

Sydney Booker drew a two-out walk in the top of the second to give Alabama its first baserunner of the day and Hawkins battled to a full count before dropping an RBI double into right center for Alabama’s first hit of the day and its first run. With runners at the corners in the bottom of the second, Jade Rhodes hit an RBI single into shallow center that fell in front of a diving McCleney to give Auburn a 5-1 lead.

With one out in the top of the third, McCleney and Chandler Dare hit back-to-back doubles to score a run and make it 5-2. Auburn regained its four-run lead on an RBI single by Emily Carosone in the bottom of the third, which ended Littlejohn’s outing in the circle. Alabama switched out its battery with Madi Moore entering to pitch and Carrigan Fain entering to catch with runners at the corners and two out. A walk would load the bases before a lineout ended the inning with the Tigers taking a 6-2 lead to the fourth inning.

A walk and a base hit would put two on with one out for Alabama in the top of the fourth and Auburn made a call to its bullpen as Makayla Martin entered to pitch in relief for Walters. A pair of groundouts got the Tigers out of the jam as it remained 6-2 at the halfway point of the game. The Auburn left fielder dropped a fly ball to start the top of the fifth, allowing McCleney to hustle in to second base on the two-base error. After advancing to third on a wild pitch, McCleney tagged up and came home on a sacrifice fly by Leona Lafaele to draw within three, 6-3.

Fain and pinch-hitter Caroline Hardy led off the top of the sixth with base hits and Hawkins dropped a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position with one out. Peyton Grantham lifted a fly ball to center field which allowed pinch-runner Rachel Bobo to tag up and score and draw Alabama within two, down 6-4.

 Auburn couldn’t add to its lead in the bottom of the sixth, giving the Tide a two-run deficit in the top of the seventh. McCleney led off the inning with an infield single and advanced to scoring position on a groundout. Lafaele put a charge into the ball but it fell short at the warning track for out number two and a groundout ended the game.

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