TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama softball team clinched its third consecutive Southeastern Conference regular season title and fourth overall, defeating the Florida Gators, 5-3, in front of 3,659 fans at Rhoads Stadium, Sunday afternoon. With the win, the Crimson Tide wins the conference title outright by a game over Tennessee.
"It's just a great moment," Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. "You have to come out and win today to win it outright. It's just a great feeling. I'm proud of these young ladies. Everyone has just done an incredible job, and to come out and do this is just awesome. And for those six seniors, they've really worked extremely hard for four years and they really earned this SEC championship."
Alabama improved to 47-6 on the year and 23-5 in the SEC, while Florida dropped to 44-10 overall, 21-7 in the SEC. The Tide claimed the title despite not receiving a single vote to do so in the SEC preseason coach's poll.
Junior Kayla Braud set the tone atop the lineup with three hits, including two doubles while scoring two runs. The top six hitters in the Tide lineup tallied at least one hit in the title clinching win.
Sophomore Jackie Traina threw every pitch for Alabama on the weekend, improving to 31-2 on the year. Traina gave up three runs on five hits and struck out six batters. Hannah Rogers took the loss for the Gators, falling to 26-6 after failing to record an out in the first inning.
"I'm excited and relieved," Traina said. "I'm more excited than anything. When I pitched that last pitch and I saw (Kayla) Braud catch it, I was excited. We did it, it's so exciting. They're a great team. I just went out there and threw my pitches. Every inning I told the girls that the ball is going to come to you. Just be ready. I believed in my team and we really came together this weekend."
Alabama once again pounced on Florida early, by plating four runs in the opening frame. The Tide loaded the bases before recording an out and Hunt continued to pour in the RBI as she lined a double down the line in left to score Braud and Fenton. The hit also chased Florida ace Hannah Rogers.
The Tide continued its scoring when Traina hit a single to right to plate Locke. Reilly-Boccia then capped off the scoring with a bloop single to left to bring in Hunt.
After batting through the lineup in the first inning, Alabama was not done as it scored another run in the second to move its lead to 5-0. Braud led off the frame with a double and then moved to third on a Fenton sac bunt. Braud then scored when Locke hit a sac-fly to center.
Alabama welcomed a school record 10,547 fans to Rhoads Stadium for the pivotal series. The Tide has now had over 3,000 fans at 10 games this season.
Alabama heads to New York for its final regular season contest of the year as it will face Fordham on Monday, May 7, with first pitch slated for 5 p.m. CT, in the Bronx.