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March 23, 2013
Softball powers past Auburn with home runs
TUSCALOOSA | The lights at Rhoads Stadium are about 100 feet high.
Jackie Traina's home run Friday night topped them by at least 50 feet. Leona Lafaele's homer wasn't quite as high, but still soared far over the top of the light poles.
Those towering home runs gave a glimpse into the ceiling for the defending national champion University of Alabama softball team in an 8-0 mercy-rule victory over the Auburn Tigers.
With an additional home run shot by Jadyn Spencer to end the game in the sixth inning, Alabama ran its home run total to 35, better than one per game. Lafaele, Traina and Spencer batted in the fourth, fifth and sixth spots in UA's batting order.
"I wouldn't want to pitch to those three," Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said.
The three power hitters bat behind second baseman Kaila Hunt, who leads the team with 10 homers. Hunt, who went 1-for-3 with an RBI, is the bridge between speedsters Kayla Braud and Haylie McCleney at the top of the order and the big sluggers.
On Friday, the power hitters impressed themselves. Alabama took a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning on Braud's RBI single, an Auburn error and a wild pitch. Traina led off the bottom of the fifth with her moon shot.
"I was shocked myself," Traina said. "Wow, that went far."
Said Lafaele, a freshman first baseman, "I couldn't believe someone could hit the ball that far. No one even knew if it was fair or foul because it went so far. They should have given her two runs."
Lafaele's big blast came in the sixth and final inning. It looked as if she was having a long-ball contest with Traina, her junior teammate.
"If it was," Lafaele said, "she definitely won."
The fourth-ranked Crimson Tide upped its record to 28-3, 5-2 in the Southeastern Conference, and extended its winning streak over Auburn to 18 games.
Lafaele, from California, was playing against Auburn for the first time. She got a lesson from her teammates on the meaning of the rivalry.
"Don't lose to Auburn, never," she said. "They are a tough team. They thought they were going to come out and do it, and they had a little swag, but Jack shut 'em down."
Traina (13-2) was the winning pitcher, allowing three hits and showing the form that took UA to last year's national title.
"I thought the game against Tennessee was her best (this season), but tonight was even better," Murphy said. "Eleven strikeouts and one walk. It was pinpoint. She stayed within herself."
The victory was Murphy's 800th as a head coach.
"That's a lot of wins," Lafaele said. "I know I haven't been here for all of them, but I can tell you he earns every one."
Murphy will get the chance to win more this weekend. UA hosts Auburn (20-12, 1-6 SEC) today at 1 p.m. and closes out the series Sunday at 2 p.m.
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-0224.