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Alabama Athletics | March 21, 2014

No. 9 Alabama holds on for thrilling SEC victory against No. 1 Florida

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Alabama endured a late seventh-inning push by the top-ranked Florida Gators to hold on for a gutsy 4-2 win in the opening game of the series to remain perfect in SEC play.

No. 9 Alabama (26-4, 7-0 SEC) held No. 1 Florida (28-3, 4-3 SEC) to one of its quietest offensive performances of the year, limiting the Gators to just two runs, one earned, off two hits. The Crimson Tide plated four runs off nine hits, including a perfect 3-3 day from Leona Lafaele and home runs by Kaila Hunt and Jadyn Spencer. The two-run homer gives Hunt 197 career RBI, putting her just three away from becoming only the second player in Alabama history to reach 200. Haylie McCleney went 1-4 with an RBI single, extending her hitting streak to 16 games. Jaclyn Traina (10-2) earned her tenth win of the season with a complete-game performance, striking out six.

Florida Delanie Gourley (11-1) suffered her first loss of the season, lasting just 5.0 innings with seven hits and four earned runs.

Hunt put the Crimson Tide on the board first, following an Andrea Hawkins bunt single with a huge two-run homer to left field as Alabama pulled ahead 2-0 early. Spencer tacked on another run with a huge two-out solo homer to left field as the Tide pulled ahead 3-0.

The pitchers settled in afterwards, as the teams combined for just two hits until the top of the fourth, as McCleney dropped an RBI single into center field to push the Tide’s lead to 4-0, though a strikeout ended the potential two-out rally.

Florida threatened in the bottom of the fourth, as back-to-back walks leading off the inning put two on with the heart of the order due up. Traina got out of the jam unscathed, as a lineout, strikeout and groundout kept the pair stranded with Alabama holding its 4-0 lead.

Alabama had a chance to add some serious insurance in the top of the fifth, loading the bases with two away off a pair of hits and a walk, but a close called strikeout ended it as the lead remained 4-0. Heading into the top of the sixth, Lauren Haeger entered to pitch for the Gators, striking out the first two batters before walking a pair. Haeger regrouped herself and forced a high fly ball to left field to end the threat.

Florida went scoreless in the bottom of the sixth and Alabama stranded a pair on base in the top of the seventh as they couldn’t add any insurance to their 4-0 lead. Florida didn’t go out quietly in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with one away as Chelsea Herndon plated one off an RBI groundout and another came across off an errant throw to make the score 4-2. With a runner at third and two away, Stephanie Tofft launched a long fly ball to center field but McCleney got there in time to secure the final out and give Alabama the 4-2 win.

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