COLUMBIA, S.C. – Alabama found itself in another back-and-forth battle in Friday’s SEC Tournament semifinal matchup against Georgia, but a late rally in the seventh by the Crimson Tide fell just short as the Bulldogs held on to win, 5-3.
Alabama (45-11) scored three runs off six hits, as the Tide stranded the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, allowing Georgia (44-12) to advance to the SEC Tournament Championship against Kentucky tomorrow. Georgia starter Geri Ann Glasco exited after just 1.1 innings pitched, while reliever Chelsea Wilkinson (28-7) pitched a gem in relief, striking out five in 5.2 innings with just one run allowed to earn the win. Jadyn Spencer accounted for two of the Tide’s three runs with a two-run shot in the first inning, while Haylie McCleney and Kallie Case each earned a pair of hits at the top of the order. Sydney Littlejohn (10-2) took the loss in the complete-game effort in the circle for Alabama.
The Bulldogs threatened early, loading the bases with one away in the opening inning. Kaylee Puailoa got things started with a single to shallow center, scoring one though a force out was made at second to put runners at the corners with two away. Anna Swafford followed with another hard-hit single down the left-field line to score another and stretch Georgia’s lead to 2-0. A walk loaded the bases yet again but a hard grounder to Kaila Hunt at second stranded the bases loaded with the Bulldogs holding an early 2-0 lead.
McCleney legged out a double down the right-field line to lead off the bottom of the second, eventually advancing to third off a wild pitch with two away. Spencer followed that by sending the 3-1 pitch over the fence in left field, tying the game up at 2-2.
A pair of hit batters put two on base for Alabama with one away in the bottom of the second as Georgia made the early pitching change, bringing in Wilkinson. She got the Bulldogs out of the jam, as a strikeout and a fly ball left the Tide runners stranded with the score still tied at 2-2.
Georgia broke the tie in the top of the third, as a fielding error allowed one run to cross the plate, putting the Bulldogs up 3-2 with two on and one away. A strikeout and a groundout limited the damage as Alabama was able to escape the inning with just a one-run deficit.
Alabama looked to get a rally going in the sixth inning, as the Tide put two on with nobody out to lead off the inning and Spencer sacrificed the pair into scoring position. A long fly ball went into deep foul territory down the third-base side, as Kallie Case tagged up at third base to score and tie the game at 3-3. A long fly ball went for the final out as Alabama couldn’t bring home the go-ahead run from third, but the Tide entered the final inning of regulation tied up at 3-3.
In the top of the seventh, Glasco hit a one-out double into the left-field gap and Alex Hugo gave the Bulldogs the lead with a two-run homer to left field, pulling Georgia ahead 5-3 late. The Bulldogs grabbed a two-out double but couldn’t tack on any more insurance, as they took the two-run lead into the bottom of the seventh. Danielle Richard drew a pinch-hit walk to lead off the bottom-half of the inning and McCleney and Case would eventually reach to load the bases with two away. A popup ended the game however, as Georgia held on to win, 5-3.
Alabama will learn its NCAA postseason fate this Sunday, as the selection committee will announce the field of 64 live on ESPNU at 9 p.m. CT.