Across the Diamond: 2019 Season Ends in Oklahoma City
One of Alabama softball's best seasons in school history came to an end in Oklahoma Sunday evening.
After losing to Oklahoma to begin their journey in the Women's College World Series, the Crimson Tide fought their way back through the losers bracket with victories over Florida and Arizona to set up a rematch with the Sooners.
With their three wins at the WCWS, Alabama reached the 60 win mark for the first time since 2012 and just the fourth time in program history.
Caroline Hardy's Dramatic Walk-Off Single vs. OU
During the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional, senior Caroline Hardy came through against Arizona State with a pinch-hit three-run double that helped Alabama win the regional.
Despite having issues at the plate against pitcher Giselle Juarez in the first of two games against the Sooners, the Tide put themselves in position to win in extra innings Sunday. Reagan Dykes led off with a single followed by a sacrifice bunt from Skylar Wallace.
After Maddie Morgan fouled out to third, senior Caroline Hardy came on as the pinch-hitter for Elissa Brown. On a 3-2 count, Hardy came through with her biggest single of her career and a storybook way to end her Alabama softball career.
Following the game, the senior from Vestavia Hills, Alabama, described where the walk-off RBI ranks in her playing career.
"The top for sure." Hardy said. "That's what you dream about doing. You dream about as a little kid getting a walk-off hit and your team coming and doing the hug and bounce in the middle of the field."
Starting Krystal Goodman in the If-Necessary Game
For what turned out to be the final game of the season for Alabama, head coach Patrick Murphy opted for sophomore Krystal Goodman to toe the rubber.
In her first appearance of the WCWS, Goodman allowed six runs in five innings of works. After two runs scored in the first inning, the sophomore right-hander tossed three consecutive scoreless innings. In the final two at bats, Oklahoma got a pair of critical two-run round trippers to force Goodman out of the game in the 6th innings.
Since the game ended, questions have arisen concerning the decision to start Goodman over Montana Fouts and Sarah Cornell. In the wins over Arizona and Oklahoma, Fouts tossed 266 pitches over 15 innings but had not allowed a run in either game. During an in-game interview in the final game between Alabama and Oklahoma, Patrick Murphy explained to ESPN's Holly Rowe his decision to start Goodman.
"Montana had an overuse injury early in the season. I'd be the biggest hypocrite in the world if I keep throwing her. We have a pitching staff. We've said that all year long. We have five young ladies that can do it. I went with Krystal (Goodman). I think she can do it." Murphy said.
Alabama's head coach also revealed in the interview that Fouts wanted to take the circle in the final game against Oklahoma, but he also mentioned the long term prospects he has in mind for her and the team.
"I want to be back here three more years with her in the circle." Murphy said.
Mudita is a word of Pali and Sanskrit origin that means having joy or pleasure in the accomplishments of others.
Throughout the season, Patrick Murphy and various players described the special chemistry that the 2019 roster displayed since the beginning of the season.
After the final game of the season against Oklahoma, Murphy described how #Team23 personified the concept of mudita.
"When a team actually gets mudita and understands what it's all about, this is what happens, 60 wins, predicted eighth in the SEC. We're going to get a ring at a football game this fall. Everybody's ring is the same size because all 19 bought in." Murphy said.
Fouts also touched on how the reaction for Hardy's walk-off RBI single demonstrated the team's sense of mudita and how the seniors have passed it down to the underclassmen.
"When she hit that, I'm sure you noticed everybody on the team just went crazy. I think that's what our team's about. What we always talk about is mudita. No one cared who hit it. No one cared who was on first. It just happened. That's what we're proud about on this team. The seniors have taught us everything about mudita. They demonstrate it every day."
Looking Ahead to 2020
Although four seniors saw their careers in the crimson and white uniform come to an end, most of the 2019 roster will return for a chance to duplicate their success in 2020.
The entire infield, Elissa Brown and KB Sides in the outfield and most of the pitching staff including Fouts, Goodman and Cornell look to contend for a national championship in 2020.
The 2020 season will also mark a special year for Alabama softball as they will host the SEC Tournament for the first since 2012 at the Rhoads House.