Bama softball beats up UF in SEC tourney final


Florida's Cheyenne Coyle tags Alabama's Jennifer Fenton as Fenton slides safely into second during the SEC championship softball game against Florida at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Saturday, May 12, 2012. (Michelle Lepianka Carter/The Tuscaloosa News)

Published: Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 6:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 12, 2012 at 6:52 p.m.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Florida softball coach Tim Walton expected third-ranked Alabama to sit Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Year Jackie Traina for Saturday's championship game at the SEC Tournament, with Traina having thrown five complete games in the previous eight days.

But Walton couldn't have expected what happened in the final. Alabama beat up the seventh-ranked Gators for a 10-1 mercy-rule win to claim the championship.

The victory was Alabama's third in a row over the Gators (46-11), who won the first game of last weekend's series before dropping the next two as the Crimson Tide (50-7) claimed the SEC regular-season title.

Alabama turned to senior Amanda Locke, who had started just four games all season coming into the final. She held Florida to three hits and didn't allow an earned run.

“I told my team that I figured we would see (Locke),” Walton said. “She has always been good. She changes speeds and has a deceptive windup that throws batters' timing off.”

Nothing Florida threw at Alabama slowed the Crimson Tide down. Outfielder Jazlyn Lunceford hit a three-run home run and catcher Kendall Dawson blasted a two-run shot to key a six-run outburst in the third inning, and shortstop Kaila Hunt went 3-for-3 with a triple, driving in four runs.

While others may have focused on Alabama's pitching choice, UA coach Patrick Murphy challenged his hitters.

“I think a lot of people forgot that there's offense involved too, and they've got to stop us,” Murphy said.

Alabama took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on Hunt's two-RBI triple to right field off UF freshman starter Lauren Haeger (14-5), setting the tone for what was to come.

Florida got a run back in the top of the second when Haeger reached on an error and Kasey Fagan hit an RBI single.

The Gators never got anything going after that. Florida loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the fifth with a chance to rally, or at least stave off the mercy rule, but Locke (4-1) got a foul pop-up to end the game.

Florida managed just four runs in a tournament run that saw it eliminate LSU and Tennessee, but the Gators aren't hitting the panic button.

“You can't change the offense at the end of the year,” Walton said. “We have been a couple hitters short for a while, but we continue to find a way to keep scrapping. We won 46 games. It is what it is.”

SEC Player of the Year Michelle Moultrie, Florida's center fielder, went 0-for-2 with a walk in the championship game.

“I think that we are fine,” she said. “We are getting better. We played a lot of good teams this weekend. We got the win sometimes and then sometimes we didn't. I like the way it went. You can always get better.

“I think that everyone is not on right now, but we still have some games left.”

Haeger went three innings, allowing eight runs on six hits with four walks and just one strikeout. Hannah Rogers pitched one inning of relief, allowing two runs on two hits with two walks.

Florida will learn its NCAA Tournament draw Sunday when the 64-team field is announced at 10 p.m. on ESPNU.

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