ALABAMA ROLLS OVER KENTUCKY, ADVANCES TO SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Alabama moves on to the SEC Championship game after the Crimson Tide defeated Kentucky in the semifinals by a score of 6-3.
One inning was all the Crimson Tide needed as it pushed across six runs in the bottom of the second to take a commanding lead in the semifinal game. After Alabama pushed across its first run of the game, coach Patrick Murphy turned to Caroline Hardy with the bases loaded with one out. Hardy came through with a clutch RBI single to start an offensive outburst for Alabama.
“Caroline [Hardy] has been our first choice [off the bench]all year long,” Murphy said. “She has had a couple of hits now recently but that was probably the biggest one all year. We always say, if and when she does get out or something good doesn’t happen for us, we always say, ‘Blessings are coming your way, it’s just not your time.’ It was Kentucky’s time a couple of weeks ago; it wasn’t our time. Today it was her time for a couple of blessings, so we are really happy for her because everybody loves her.”
The blessings continued for Alabama as the next batter, KB Sides, cleared the bases with a three-run double to increase the lead to five.
“Bases loaded is probably my favorite thing,” Sides said. “We practice that every time at practice, we have like, three bases loaded and I know at least I can get it in the air somewhere, but I wasn’t expecting a double or the three RBI’s – that was pretty cool.”
The Wildcats continued to fight back as Kentucky pushed across runs in the third, fourth and sixth innings to trim the Alabama lead to three. The game hung in the balance in the seventh inning with two Kentucky runners on and SEC Player of the Year Abbey Cheek at the plate. Junior Krystal Goodman got a clutch out by getting Cheek to fly out for the second out of the seventh.
“My heart is still beating fast,” Murphy said. “I was just like, if we walk her, we put the winning, you know, a grand slam is the lead, if [Cheek] hits a home run, it’s tied. Steph [VanBrakle Protho] talked to Krystal and said this is the game plan and [Krystal] made the pitches and it worked out for us.”
In the last meeting between the two teams, Cheek was a force at the plate as she hit two home runs in the series. In the semifinal game, Cheek went 0-for-3 as Alabama was able to keep the power hitter off of the score sheet.
“I love their players, but I am really, really glad that Cheek and Reed and a lot of them are going to graduate,” Murphy said. “I told ESPN, when Cheek gets up, it’s literally like Babe Ruth in the box. So she just had a hell of a good year and to get her out a couple times tonight was big for Krystal [Goodman], big for our whole team because it was a big debate in the dugout, believe me, to whether to pitch to her or to put her on.”
Alabama advances to the championship game where the Crimson Tide will play Florida. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.