On Thursday, No.12 Alabama began their first of five tough matchups this weekend at the TaxAct Clearwater Invitational, fighting off a late comeback by No.16 Duke to secure a 5-4 win. 

Alabama started off fast, scoring five unanswered runs in the first two innings, making it the third time out of four games this season that the Crimson Tide has scored first. In the first inning Alabama got RBI hits from Ashley Prange, Ally Shipman and Jenna Johnson, plating three runs in the first inning. Prange kept the bats alive in the second inning, crushing a two-run home run to center field, her second home run of the season. The quick five runs in the first two innings would be all the offense from the Crimson Tide, but it would be just enough for the victory.

In the top of the fourth, Duke responded with their own two-run blast from Kelly Tores to finally break the shutout, making it 5-2. Two innings later in the sixth, Torres struck again, this time a solo shot and second home run of the day off Alabama pitcher Montana Fouts.

Heading into the last inning with the score 5-3 in favor of Alabama, Duke had a leadoff double that would later score on a sac fly to cut the lead down to just one. With the Blue Devils down to their last out, they managed a two-out double that put the potential game-tying run in scoring position before Fouts induced a ground ball to close the game.

Alabama’s first three hitters in the order went a combined 4 for 10, led by Ashley Prange’s RBI single and two-run home run, her third multi-hit game of the season. Montana Fouts started the game in the circle for the Crimson Tide and despite allowing two home runs, went the full seven innings, striking out eight and recording her second complete game win of the season.

Alabama will play four games over the remaining three days of the TaxAct Clearwater Invitational. The Crimson Tide will face Indiana, as well as three top 20 ranked teams, No.2 UCLA, No.20 UCF, and No.6 Florida State.

Next up on the schedule for Alabama is No. 2 UCLA, Friday, Feb. 17, at 3 p.m. CT.

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