TUSCALOOSA, Ala. —The long ball returned to Rhoads Stadium in a big way Friday as the University of Alabama softball team won its opening game the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional with a 5-1 victory over Albany.
Sophomore catcher Reagan Dykes hit a solo home run down the left-field line in the second inning and freshman Baily Hemphill drilled a two-run shot to left that essentially put the game out of reach in the fifth.
It was Alabama’s first home run in the stadium since third baseman Peyton Grantham’s grand slam against UAB on April 11, the Crimson Tide’s first multiple-home run game since April 1 at Missouri and first multiple-home run game at home since March 5 against Jacksonville.
Dykes went 2-for-3 while senior designated player Marisa Runyon had the Crimson Tide’s other RBI off a single in the third inning.
Junior Devin Durando (8-4) took the loss for Albany, which will play Louisiana Tech in a loser’s bracket game Saturday afternoon.
Turner returns to the field
Alabama’s Demi Turner saw her first regular action when she entered in the game in the sixth inning at second base and received a standing ovation from the Rhoads Stadium crowd. The junior pinch-ran during the final regular-season series against Auburn and during the SEC Tournament, but was finally cleared to hit and play in the field on Monday.
She drew a four-pitch walk in her first at-bat, in the sixth inning.
Turner had extended vision problems after suffering a concussion and orbital fracture at Missouri on April 1. Despite being out more than a month Turner still led the team with a .387 batting average and had multi-hit games in 11 of her 37 starts.
Big pitching decision
With the potential to play twice both on Saturday and Sunday, Alabama coach Murphy decided to start sophomore Madi Moore and rest junior Alexis Osorio (21-7, 1.29 ERA).
Coming, Moore was 6-1 with a 3.21 ERA and had established herself as Alabama’s mid-week starter.
After Moore gave up a run and hit three batters, including one in the head, Patrick pulled her in favor of senior Sydney Littlejohn, who pitched out of a two-on, two-out jam in the third inning.
She allowed just one hit and two baserunners, the other off a hit batter, over 4.2 innings to get the win (16-8) and drop her ERA to 1.29. Littlejohn threw 58 pitches, striking out seven and with no walks.
Player of the game
She didn’t get any hits in the game, but freshman center fielder Elissa Brown reached base three time on walks, stole a base and scored two runs.
What’s next for Alabama softball
Alabama’s win sets up the first showdown with unseeded Minnesota (55-3), in a winner’s-bracket game, Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET. The loser will play again at 7:30 p.m. ET in an elimination game.
This story will be updated following the postgame press conference
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