COLUMBIA, Mo. - Alabama finished the 2014 regular season on a strong note, shutting out Missouri in Saturday's rubber match to earn the series victory.
Alabama (44-10, 19-5 SEC) capitalized on timely hits and mistakes by the Missouri (41-15, 15-9 SEC) defense, earning the win despite only tallying two runs. Both of the Crimson Tide's runs were unearned, as Casey Stangel (14-9) took the loss in the circle, throwing 4.1 innings. Leslie Jury (15-6) had a strong outing for Alabama, earning the win with 5.1 innings pitched while Sydney Littlejohn pitched 1.2 relief innings with just one hit allowed to earn her third save of the season.
With runners at the corners and nobody out in the top of the third, Haylie McCleney stole second and nobody on the Missouri defense was out covering the throw to second as the throw rolled into center field, allowing Andrea Hawkins to score from third on the E2 and make it a 1-0 ballgame. The Tide couldn't maintain the momentum though, as a pair of groundouts and a popout prevented Alabama from adding to its one-run lead.
Hawkins drew a one-out walk in the top of the fifth, advanced all the way to third on a wild pitch and came home on yet another wild pitch as that pushed the Tide lead up to 2-0. The second wild pitch was a ball four to McCleney, who walked to first to end Stangel's outing in the circle as Tori Finucane entered for the Tigers. Kallie Case followed with a slap single but a double play ended the half-inning with the Tide leading 2-0.
Missouri made a bid for its first run of the game in the bottom of the fifth with a runner on second and two away. Taylor Gadbois sent a single up the middle and the runner at second rounded third and broke for home. McCleney fired in a rocket to home plate from shallow center as Jordan Patterson applied the tag for out number three to preserve the 2-0 lead and end the inning.
The Tigers put a pair of runners into scoring position in the bottom of the sixth off a single and a throwing error, which ended Jury's start as Littlejohn entered in the save situation. A ground ball to third caught the runner at third in a rundown for out number two and the Tide intentionally walked Angela Randazzo to load the bases. Natalie Fleming hit a high popup back to the pitcher's circle to strand the bases loaded as Littlejohn pitched out of the jam to maintain Alabama's 2-0 lead.
Alabama couldn't add any insurance in the top of the seventh as they took a two-run lead into the final half-inning of regulation. The tying run came to the plate off a one-out single that put runners on first and second. Kaila Hunt made a great play on a ground ball, flipping the backhand on the run to Leona Lafaele at first for out number two, though both runners advanced into scoring position. The Tide intentionally walked Emily Crane to set up a force at any base but it never came into play as Littlejohn struck out Mackenzie Sykes to end the game, earning her third save of the season and securing the series win for Alabama.
Next weekend, Alabama begins postseason play at the 2014 SEC Tournament, hosted by South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. As the No. 1 tournament seed, the Tide will play the winner of Wednesday's No. 7 vs. No. 10 matchup on Thursday, May 8 at 3 p.m. CT. Every game of the SEC Tournament will be broadcast live on ESPNU, with the championship game on ESPN 2.