The No. 17 South Carolina softball team (28-11, 5-9 SEC) earned its first SEC series win against No. 4 Alabama (38-4, 8-4 SEC) on Sunday afternoon in front of a huge crowd at Beckham Field.
“SEC play is a grind,” head coach Beverly Smith said. “I was just glad to see that we could make the plays. I thought the players managed the innings well, and it just shows whoever plays best on game day is going to win the game.”
Pitching and defense allowed the Gamecocks to hand Alabama its first SEC series loss of the season. This was also the first time South Carolina won a series over the Crimson Tide since the 2009 season.
“I think a win like this shows our team what it’s like to compete against top teams in the country,” Smith said. “It’s the type of performances you have to have to win and advance late in the season.”
Coming off a complete game victory in game two of the series, Gamecock pitcher Dixie Raley started in the circle in game three. After a couple of walks in the first inning, Raley got a pop-out to escape the jam.
The Gamecocks started their scoring early. Mackenzie Boesel started the bottom of the first with a lead-off single. Jana Johns then came up to the plate with one out and hit a two-run home run over the left-field wall.
“I was really just trying to see a pitch and attack it, and that’s what I did,” Johns said. “I just saw the ball and hit the ball, just keep it simple.”
Raley faced another jam in the top of the second. After a couple of singles and a walk, Alabama had the bases loaded with two outs. South Carolina’s defense proved to be crucial as Alabama’s Skylar Wallace hit a deep ball to right-center field, but Alexis Lindsey was there to catch it up against the wall on the warning track, keeping Alabama scoreless.
After a quiet inning for Raley in the fourth, the Gamecocks led No. 4 Alabama 2-0 going into the fifth.
After a couple of walks in the fifth, Alabama’s Merris Schroder bunted to Raley but was called out at first for runner’s interference. Raley then got a ground out to keep the Crimson tide off the scoreboard.
“I think [Raley] was commanding at the plate, truthfully,” Smith said. “It was really an outstanding performance, and again, that’s not easy to do. When she came in, I think she was just throwing her change-up effectively and then really being able to utilize her curveball.”
Pitcher Cayla Drotar came into replace Raley in the sixth. Drotar took care of the Crimson Tide in the last two innings, allowing the Gamecocks to win 2-0. Raley earned the win for the second consecutive game, pitching five complete shutout innings.
“This weekend, we played together as a team ... we came out and did what we had to do,” Raley said. “Hitting our spots and trusting in our defense was our mentality.”
Raley pitched a total of 12 innings against the Crimson Tide, only allowing one run.
“I was proud of just how tough they were,” Smith said. “I’m super proud of Dixie Raley and [Cayla] Drotar. For us to do that, you’ve got to have a pitching performance and the defense has got to show up behind you.”
The Gamecocks will turn their attention to the Furman Paladins for a non-conference match-up on Wednesday. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at Beckham Field and can be viewed on SEC Network Plus.