Top-Ranked Alabama Defeats Illini, 7-2, in Season-Opener

Shelese Arnold allowed just one hit through three scoreless innings of relief.
Shelese Arnold allowed just one hit through three scoreless innings of relief.

Feb. 8, 2013

Box Score

Cedar Falls, Iowa – In an otherwise even game, one swing made all the difference, as a Keima Davis grand slam led No. 1 Alabama past the University of Illinois, 7-2, in both teams’ season opener at the UNI Dome Tournament. The Illini led 2-1 early, but a six-run third inning for the Crimson Tide secured the first victory for the defending National Champions.

Freshman Allie Bauch had a successful first outing, going 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI, contributing to both of the Illini’s runs. Katie Repole drove in the Illini’s first run on a two-out walk, and Jessica Davis scored the Illini’s go-ahead run in the top of the third. Alex Booker led off with a single in the first and Jess Perkins was hit by a pitch twice to reach base.

Courtney Conley led the Tide at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double, a run and an RBI, while Keila Davis had the play of the game with a grand slam in the third, going 1-for-2 on the afternoon. Haylie McCleney was 1-for-2 with two walks and a run, and Jackey Branham also had two walks and a run.

Pepper Gay started in the circle for the Illini, allowing all seven runs, six earned, on just three hits but eight walks, while striking out four in the first three innings. Shelese Arnold came in in the bottom of the fourth and made a stellar relief appearance, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out four in three scoreless innings.

Leslie Jury pitched the full seven for Alabama, allowing two runs, one earned, on three hits, three walks and two hit batsmen.

Alex Booker began the season with a leadoff single in the top of the first, but a shallow fly ball led to a double play, and the Illini were held scoreless.

Haylie McCleney got the Crimson Tide on the board in the bottom of the first with a one-out single. She stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch, then used smart base running to score on a comebacker to the mound by Kaila Hunt. Hunt advanced to second on a botched throw by Gay, but Gay held off the Tide, finishing the inning with a strikeout and a lineout.

Perkins led off the top of the second by getting hit by a pitch. Bauch singled to center and Nicole Tobon walked to load the bases. Jade Smith hit it to left, but the ball hung in the air giving the left fielder the advantage, who threw Perkins out in the force at home. Repole soon found herself in an 0-2 hole, but battled all the way back to draw a walk and bring in the first Illini run of the season, tying the score at one apiece.

Gay walked the first two batters in the bottom of the second, and a sacrifice bunt by Keima Davis began another threat for the Tide. However, two huge strikeouts by Gay, including a bases-loaded, two-out, full-count K held Alabama scoreless, as the score remained 1-1 after two.

Jessica Davis drew a one-out walk in the top of the third and advanced to third on a wild pitch and a passed ball. Perkins got aboard on a second hit by pitch and stole second to make it second and third with one out for Bauch. Bauch drove in Davis on an RBI groundout to the pitcher to give the Illini their first lead, up 2-1.

The first two Alabama batters walked in the third, and an RBI double by Conley tied the score at 2-2. Hays was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Patterson took back the Bama lead on a walk. Keima Davis then wrapped a line drive grand slam just inside the left-field foul pole to cap a six-run third and put the Crimson Tide ahead 7-2.

The remainder of the game was quiet, as Jury and Arnold allowed just one hit each in the final three-and-a-half innings, rendering a final score of 7-2.

The Fighting Illini return to action Saturday morning, to take on North Dakota State at 9 a.m. followed by Green Bay.