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March 1, 2013TUSCALOOSA | Jackie Traina pitched her way into some situations Thursday.
And she pitched herself right out of each one.
Traina, the junior ace pitcher for the top-ranked, defending national champion University of Alabama softball team, threw a frosty three-hitter and worked around six walks to lead the Crimson Tide to a 4-0 victory over South Alabama.
Alabama (18-0) will host Iowa State and St. John's today starting at 2:30 p.m. in the Easton Classic.
South Alabama (13-2), which played in last year's NCAA regional final in Tuscaloosa, came in with victories over Mississippi State and Ole Miss. The Jaguars might have challenged UA had it not been for Traina's toughness in tough situations.
Runners on second and third with two outs in the first inning? Traina responded with two strikeouts to strand them.
A leadoff double, followed by a walk, in the third? Traina came back with two more strikeouts and coaxed a grounder to end the inning.
A couple of two -out walks in the sixth? Strikeout, inning over.
Bases loaded in the top of the seventh with one out? A fly ball to left field and another signature strikeout, her ninth of the game, and Traina had polished off her ninth decision of the season.
"I always get myself into the situations," Traina said. "I'm like, why do I do that to myself? I have to get myself out of it."
Traina stranded nine South Alabama runners in all.
Alabama coach Patrick Murphy has seen Traina get herself out of self-created jams before.
"She needed it tonight," he said. "It definitely wasn't her best performance or her best stuff, but she finds a way.
"She's been through so many situations like that in her career, she probably didn't notice the bases were loaded."
Traina had some help. Freshman outfielder Haylie McCleney gave her a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first by drawing a walk, stealing second and moving to third on an error and scoring on a wild pitch.
Second baseman Kaila Hunt made a key defensive play in the third, making a sliding stop and throwing from the ground to get the third out.
Newcomer Molly Fichtner came through in the third with the bases loaded, hitting a three-RBI double to right field to up Alabama's lead to 4-0. It was the first big hit at UA for the catcher who transferred from Texas-San Antonio.
Murphy wasn't satisfied with the rest of UA's hitting.
"We need to have somebody else pick (Traina) up," he said.
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-022