Alabama Softball Forces If-Necessary Game Against Oklahoma but Falls in Nightcap to End Season
Needing two wins to advance to the Women’s College World Series championship series, Alabama won the opener against Oklahoma in walk-off fashion in eight innings, 1-0, but ultimately fell in the nightcap, 7-3, to end the 2019 season.
Alabama finishes the season with a 60-10 record, its fourth 60-win season in program history and its first since 2012. The Women’s College World Series appearance was the 12th for the Crimson Tide and marked its sixth showing in the Sunday semifinals.
“They taught me a lot,” UA head coach Patrick Murphy said about this year’s team. “Everybody wanted to keep playing. That’s a credit to them. We really looked forward to every practice and everything we did together as a group. It was a lot of fun. This was one of the most fun teams and enjoyable years I’ve ever had.”
The win in game one, capped by an eighth-inning walk off RBI single from senior Caroline Hardy, was the first shutout loss for top-ranked Oklahoma (57-4) this season and forced them to an if-necessary game in the WCWS semifinals for the first time in program history.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to go out than finishing with this group at the World Series,” Hardy said. “When Coach Aly [Habetz] hugged me at the end of the game, she said ‘you’re going to be a champion in life’. That’s what’s so important about Alabama softball. When I take off this jersey for the last time, I’m prepared for that.”
GAME ONE: ALABAMA 1, OKLAHOMA 0 (8 INN.)
The two teams were scoreless through regulation, until Hardy came through with the key pinch-hit single in the eighth to give Alabama the walk-off victory. Freshman Montana Fouts (21-6) was stingy in the circle, throwing the complete-game shutout with just four hits allowed.
Alabama tallied the first hit of the day for either team, a one-out single from junior Bailey Hemphill in the bottom of the first but could not break into the run column. An infield single and a fielding error gave Oklahoma a runner in scoring position with one out in the top of the third, but a popup and strikeout left her stranded to keep it scoreless. The Sooners put two on with one out in the top of the fourth but failed to score again, with a force out and fly ball getting the Tide out of the jam.
With the teams still scoreless in the top of the sixth, the Sooners drew a one-out walk before sophomore Maddie Morgan snared a hard line drive at third, spun around and fired to first for the inning-ending 5-3 double play. In the top of the seventh, a single and fielding error gave Oklahoma a pair of baserunners with the potential go-ahead run now in scoring position. A swinging strikeout went for out number two and a seven-pitch at bat against All-American Sydney Romero ended in a popup to short to keep the game scoreless.
With one out in the bottom of the seventh, sophomore Kaylee Tow broke a streak of 18-straight retired with a double to the warning track in center field. After a popup, a spectacular diving catch in shallow center field kept the game alive as the teams headed to extra innings tied at 0-0.
Senior Regan Dykes led off the bottom of the eight with a single up the middle just past the glove of the diving Oklahoma second baseman. With freshman Kloyee Anderson pinch-running at first, freshman Skylar Wallace laid down a sacrifice bunt to move her into scoring position with one out. Two batters later, Hardy came through with the biggest hit of the game, knocking a single up the middle to score Anderson and give Alabama the 1-0 walk-off victory, forcing a deciding second game.
GAME TWO: OKLAHOMA 7, ALABAMA 3
Game two was a back-and-forth affair, with Alabama answering back immediately after Oklahoma scored in both the first and fifth innings, but a late surge by the Sooners in the sixth ultimately brought the game to its final tally of 7-3 to end the Tide’s season. Wallace went 2-for-2 in the game, including a two-run home run in the sixth inning.
Oklahoma didn’t waste any time scoring in the second game of the day, leading off the first inning with a walk before Caleigh Clifton drove her in with an RBI double. A pair of wild pitches allowed Clifton to cross home and make it 2-0 before a popup ended the inning.
With one out in the top of the second, Dykes blasted a solo home run to left field to cut the deficit in half. After a popup, Oklahoma made a pitching change as junior Mariah Lopez entered to pitch with two out. A fielding error extended the inning as junior Claire Jenkins hustled up to second, but a fly ball left her stranded as it remained 2-1.
A walk and hit-by-pitch put the first two on for the Sooners in the bottom of the fourth but the Tide defense tracked down three fly balls to get out of the jam. With two out and a runner on in the bottom of the fifth, sophomore Jocelyn Alo blasted a two-run home run to center field, extending Oklahoma’s lead to 4-1.
Looking to start a rally, Dykes drew a two-out walk in the top of the sixth and, facing an 0-2 count, Wallace went opposite field for a two-run home run to make it a one-run game. The Sooners quickly moved back ahead by three in the bottom half of the inning with another two-run home run, ending Goodman’s outing in the circle as junior Sarah Cornell entered to pitch. After putting two outs on the board, the Sooners hit another home run, a solo shot to make it 7-3.
Down to its final two outs in the top of the seventh, junior Elissa Brown was hit by a pitch and Hardy, in as a pinch-hitter, drew a five-pitch walk to put two on base as sophomore KB Sides re-entered to run at first. A groundout moved the pair into scoring position but a strikeout ended the rally, the game and the season.
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