Tuscaloosa, Ala. – Shellie Robinson belted a solo home run in the first inning off Alabama All-American Jaclyn Traina to break the program's all-time home runs record, but 24th-ranked USC Upstate dropped a 7-1 decision to national No. 2 seed and 5th-ranked Alabama in the winner's bracket final of the Tuscaloosa Regional Saturday at Rhoads Stadium.
"I appreciate how hard our team fought against an extremely good team," said Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins. "We didn't quit. We had several times when they had bases loaded and we got out of it. We kept swinging the bat and we played aggressively. We can only do what we do. We played a very good Alabama team today. Hopefully, this evening we can get through that one (6 pm elimination game) and get some more opportunities to play. All it does is make us better and we look forward to the next challenge."
Upstate fell to 46-8 on the year with the loss and will play the winner of the game between South Alabama and SIU Edwardsville in the final elimination game of the regional at 6:00 pm CT, 7:00 pm ET. The winner of that game advances to play Alabama (47-11) Sunday at 1:00 pm CT, 2:00 pm ET on regional championship Sunday. The "if necessary" game would be played at 3:30 pm CT, 4:30 pm ET.
Alabama took the lead in the top of the first inning. Haylie McCleney walked to lead off the game, stole second, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Kaila Hunt's RBI single to right center. The Tide made it a 4-0 lead on Jaclyn Traina's three-run home run to left center.
Upstate answered in the bottom of the first when Robinson belted a leadoff home run to get the Spartans within 4-1. The homer elevated Robinson's career total to 47, breaking her tie with all-time great and Upstate Athletics Hall of Fame member Stacey Berrong for the school's career record. Kendall Settlemyre singled with the next at-bat, but the Spartans were stymied the rest of the inning.
"It was an exciting start (getting the home run) and then Kendall getting the hit after," said Robinson. "It was good for us to get those hits out of the way and get our confidence up. "(Traina) kicked it into high gear after the first inning. I think that's what she does. We fought, we hit her, so that's all we could do. They were just in the right place at the right time."
Alabama extended its lead back to four runs on Jadyn Spencer's solo home run in the top of the third inning. The homer forced Shubert out of the game as Friday's winning pitcher Anna Miller took the circle for the Spartans. The Tide loaded the bases with two outs and McCleney hit a shot back at Miller for an infield RBI single to make it a 6-1 lead.
Alabama loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the fifth. After a pop out to short, Miller was replaced in the circle by the starter, Shubert. Shubert got a fielder's choice force out at home and a pop up to end the threat as the Spartans got out of the bases loaded jam unscathed.
After three scoreless innings, Alabama opened a 7-1 lead in the top of the seventh. The Tide put runners on the corners with two outs when McCleney scored from third after a throwing error on a failed pick-off attempt.
Shubert took the loss for Upstate, her first since a 2-1 loss at Stetson on March 11. She allowed six runs, five earned, on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings to fall to 18-2 on the year against the Tide. She struck out four and walked just one.
"(Lexi) is the spinniest pitcher we've seen all year," said Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy. "I mean she was as advertised. She's going to have a really good career. She's going to be good."
After allowing two hits in the first and one in the second, Traina retired the next 17 straight to gain control of the game. Maddison Kieffer's double to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning ended the run of 17 straight retired batters for Traina. She earned the win, going the distance and allowing one run on four hits to improve to 21-3. She struck out six and walked none.
"After that (Robinson's home run), I needed to make my pitches better, maybe have a different mindset because they were aggressive," said Traina on adjusting after Robinson's home run. "They are a good team. Just putting the ball where I wanted to put the ball and make them chase more."