St8tement made: Alabama crushes Florida 15-3

Courtesy of Alabama Athletics

Christopher Walsh

Three three-run home runs propelled Alabama softball to a record-setting performance in the 15-3 win over Florida on Saturday to advance at the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.

A six-run first inning set the tone for Alabama (58-9) in a dominant victory over Florida (49-18), needing just five innings to defeat the Gators.

The 12-run margin of victory is the third-largest in Women’s College World Series history, the largest since Arizona defeated Fresno State, 12-0, in 1989.

It is the Crimson Tide’s second run-rule victory at the WCWS, previously defeating Arizona, 14-0, in 2009. The 15 runs scored is the most by Alabama over Florida in program history.

Junior Bailey Hemphill was 2-for-3 at the plate, including a three-run home run in the fourth inning. The Lafayette, La., native is now Alabama’s single season record-holder in home runs (26) and RBIs (82), with her 26 home runs tying Mississippi State’s Mia Davidson for the SEC single-season record, set earlier this season.

Sophomore Kaylee Tow, hitting behind Hemphill, was 2-for-3 with four RBIs, three of which came on a first-inning home run that got the scoring started for the Crimson Tide.

Sophomore KB Sides was 3-for-3 at the top of the order, while senior Reagan Dykes and junior Elissa Brown also posted multi-hit performances. Alabama’s third home run of the day came off the bat of senior Merris Schroder, a three-run shot in the first inning.

Sides led off the bottom of the first with a double to the wall in left and advanced to third on a wild pitch during the subsequent at-bat. Hemphill was intentionally walked to put runners at the corners and Tow blasted a three-run home run to right field to give the Crimson Tide an early 3-0 lead.

Only Alabama wasn't done. Five batters later Schroder doubled the lead with another three-run home run to chase Gators ace Kelly Barnhill. She later returned to throw a final pitch as the curtain call for her collegiate career.

With two in scoring position and two out in the bottom of the third, a wild pitch moved both runners up 60 feet to increase the lead to 7-0.

An RBI single from Sides stretched it to 8-0 and a throwing error following a single in the next at-bat allowed Sides to score and make it 9-0. A standup double from Tow pushed the lead to double digits as the Gators made another pitching change, with a groundout finally stopping the two-out rally with the score at 10-0.

Freshman Skylar Wallace reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the fourth and Dykes brought her home with a double down the right-field line, advancing to third on an error with the score 11-0. A two-out RBI single from Brown stretched it to 12-0 before Hemphill crushed a three-run home run to further swell the lead to 15-0.

Down to its final three outs in the top of the fifth, A pair of home runs erased the shutout and put three runs on the board to avoid the shutout.

Although No. 8 Alabama swept the regular-season series against Florida, but lost the SEC Championship Game by one run, the No. 5 Gators were seeded higher in the tournament.

Alabama will return to play a second game Saturday night, facing Arizona (48-13) for a spot in the semifinals.