No. 1 Alabama Survives Feisty Wildcats in Extra-Innings

March 9, 2012

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The University of Kentucky softball team dropped a heartbreaking 3-1 extra-inning loss to No. 1 Alabama as the Crimson Tide belted back-to-back home runs in the top of the ninth to claim the win in the first game at the newly-renovated UK Softball Complex which included a brand-new HD video board and expanded seating capacity Friday night.

With the win, Alabama remains flawless at 19-0 and 1-0 in league play. Kentucky falls to 10-9 and 0-1 in Southeastern Conference action.

Kentucky and the top-ranked Tide played to a 1-1 tie through regulation as the Wildcats were paced by stellar pitching from senior Chanda Bell who entered in the fifth inning and went the remaining distance striking out nine against the high-powered Bama attack.

After retiring the first two batters in the top of the ninth inning with strikeouts, Alabama's Danae Hayes lifted a home run to left center to put the Crimson Tide ahead 2-1. The next better was Courtney Conley who connected with her own solo homer to straight-away center to put Alabama ahead 3-1.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, junior Kara Dill was struck with a pitch to give the Wildcats a base runner to start the inning. Despite Dill swiping second and shifting to third on an erroneous throw by the catcher to move to third. Kentucky was unable to push the run across as the inning ended on three consecutive outs.

In the bottom of the first inning, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week Griffin Joiner unloaded on a pitch, throttling it to right field for a home run. The home run was the third on the young season for the Hopkinsville, Ky., native and was her first-career SEC at-bat. The long ball gave UK a 1-0 lead after the first inning of play.

After three scoreless innings, in the top of the fourth, Alabama's Kaila Hunt tripled into right center after Rachel Riley had retired the first two batters in the inning. Hunt came around to score on a two-out RBI single by Jazlyn Lunceford. Lunceford was caught stealing, ending the Alabama half of the fourth.

Bama pitcher Jackie Traina walked to lead off the fifth inning for Alabama to give the Crimson Tide a base runner. After Riley struck out Hays, Conley reached on an error by the Wildcats. Kayla Braud reached on an infield single for the Tide, leaving the bases loaded for Jennifer Fenton with one out. Bell then entered the circle for the Cats, and got Fenton looking to put two down in the inning. Bell then faced Alabama first basemen Cassie Reilly-Boccla. Reilly-Boccla fended off many two-out pitches, and Bell prevailed with a strikeout swinging to get out of the jam.

With those two strikeouts, Bell then struck out the side in the top of the sixth inning to retire the first five she faced consecutively all by a strikeout.

After sending the first two down in order in the top of the seventh, Bell allowed a two-out double into left field to give the Crimson Tide the go-ahead run in scoring position. Kayla Braud, the Alabama lead-off hitter approached the plate and laced a deep fly ball to left, where Alice O'Brien was waiting for the final out of the inning.

Traina retired the Wildcats 3-4-5 hitters in the bottom of the seventh to send the game to extra innings. It was the third extra-inning affair for the Wildcats this season, with the Crimson Tide playing its first extra-inning game of the young season.

Fenton led off the top of the eighth for the Tide with a high, powering shot to deep center where Wildcats' center fielder Emily Jolly caught the ball against the wall for the opening out of the inning. Bell retired Reilly-Boccla with a groundout to short, and struck Amanda Locke to put the go-ahead run on the base paths for Kaila Hunt. Hunt struck out looking to end the Alabama eighth-inning threat.

O'Brien led off the bottom of the eighth inning with a single laced up the middle of the field to put the go-ahead run aboard for the Cats. O'Brien stole second base to put the leading run in scoring position with no outs in the inning. However, the Wildcats were unable to convert on the opportunity leaving O'Brien stranded at second.

Riley went 4.1 innings allowing six hits, and only one run while striking out four batters. Bell (5-2) suffered the loss despite striking out eight of the 19 batters she faced which was a season high.

Alabama and Kentucky will duel again Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. ET for the second game of this three-game series with the series finale slated for Sunday.

Follow along with the UK softball program all season long at UKathletics.com.