TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — With one swing, Bailey Hemphill accomplished two major feats. First, she became Alabama's all time home run leader with 61 career home runs. Second, and more importantly for Hemphill herself, the two-run fly ball over the center field wall gave her team the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning.
"Got two strikes and then I was just swinging hard no matter what happened, and I was able to hit a [fly ball] over the fence," Hemphill said.
The heroic and historic home run gave Alabama the 6-5 lead over Tennessee which was enough for Montana Fouts to hold on to as she struck out the side in the seventh in the SEC Tournament semifinals at Rhoads Stadium Friday night.
After a month-long home run drought, Hemphill hit two in Thursday's quarterfinal matchup against Kentucky to tie the record held by Kelly Kretschman with 60. The home run against the Volunteers sets her all alone in the record books, but Hemphill said she wasn't thinking of individual accomplishments as she was rounding the bases.
"At that moment, I didn't even care about the record, and I was just happy that we went up in that game," Hemphill said.
Alabama held a 4-2 lead heading into the sixth inning. Fouts had struck out nine Lady Volunteers and only allowed four hits. After a one-out single, Alabama coach Patrick Murphy brought in Lexi Kilfoyl for her first appearance in the circle since April 10.
Kilfoyl walked the first batter she faced and then a wild pitch allowed both runners to advance. Am RBI-single, another wild pitch, and another RBI-single gave Tennessee the 5-4 lead, its first since the top of the first inning.
"We needed a pressure-packed situation," Murphy said. "I had to get Kilfoyl back in there sometime somehow, she needed to feel it. The defense needed to feel it, the hitters. I think it's exactly what we kind of needed, and the best part of it is we ended up winning. So, they bailed me out."
After Tennessee took the lead, Fouts reentered the game in the circle and stuck out the last four batters she faced.
"Montana just coming back in, there was a different look in her eyes those last two innings," Hemphill said. "She was not going to let them come back. It was really cool to see her just shove it."
Outside of Hemphill's home run, the biggest offensive highlight of the night was Taylor Clark's first home run of the season. Her two-run blast was what gave the Crimson Tide the 4-2 lead.
"To be able to do that in front of this crowd was just a really special moment for me," Clark said. "We have one of the best fan bases, if not the best fan base in the country, so to get that hit and get them going all rowdy was dreamy."
Now, Alabama turns its sights to the SEC Tournament championship on Saturday at 5 p.m. against an all too familiar opponent, the top-seeded Florida Gators. Fortunately for the Crimson Tide, things are starting to click at the perfect time according to Clark.
"We're peaking at the right time," Clark said. "Everything's coming together at the right time, the pitching, the defense and the clutch hits."