Murphy Gives Credit As Tide Softball Wins

Alabama has moved into the Championship Series of the Women's College World Series, and the familiar names are responsible. Jackie Traina hitting and pitching. Kaila Hunt leading the home run barrage. But following the Crimson Tide's 5-2 win over top-seeded California Sunday, there was plenty of praise to pass around.

Certainly it starts with Jackie Traina, who threw a complete game two-hitter for the second seeded Alabama Crimson Tide. Traina, Hunt, and senior Jazlyn Lunceford had home runs. And catcher Kendall Dawson had a dramatic pickoff throw.

Following the game Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy gave plaudits to Crimson Tide stars. But he also talked about the intangibles, particularly from some Bama seniors who don't see a lot of playing time. Senior catcher Olivia Gibson was a back-up performer even before suffering an injury that has limited her to dugout cheerleader.

Murphy said, "Olivia Gibson, if you knew her, we have a thing that we call intangibles. ‘What are you going to bring to the table?' They think for about two weeks what they're going to bring to the table as a team and as a teammate.

"And then about two weeks later, I say: ‘Okay, what's the intangible going to be?' And her intangible every year is: ‘I'm going to bring love and joy to the team.' Not hits, not strikeouts, not great plays, but she's going to bring love and joy to the team.

"And that's what she brings. She's an incredible kid. She always puts the team above herself. She's a servant leader from the word go. Very, very selfless, and that's the reason, when you have 20 young ladies on the team -- and that's our largest roster ever -- the kids that don't play are usually the ones that bring you down, Not the starters, because they're happy, they get to play.

"The kids that don't play are the ones that kind of bring you down. And it shows up in the postseason. If there's some unhappy campers on your team, it's going to show up in a hurry.

"And this is one of the most together team chemistry-wise teams we've ever had. And it all starts with the seniors, because they know their role and they shut their hole. They don't complain. They do exactly what I ask them to do. And they're great, great kids."

Sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina struck out six batters as she improved to a school record 40-2 on the year.

Bama scored in every inning but the first to down California at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. With the win, the Crimson Tide will make its first appearance in the Women's College World Series Championship Series.

Alabama hit three home runs off of Cal pitcher Jolene Henderson, who fell to 38-4 on the year. No team had hit more than two home runs in a single game against her this season.

"It was a really good game by us, I thought, today," Murphy said. "We hit the ball, we played good defense, and Jackie pitched pretty well."

He said he thought that Traina has had "every game, every pitch this week, and I think her conditioning is ready for it."

Trains said, "I was just throwing good pitches, throwing my pitches, throwing the pitches that I thought would get their batters out; and help from (catcher) Kendall (Dawson), because she's always back there giving great calls and helping me out behind the plate. A lot of it goes to her. She helps me out back there."

Dawson helped in another way. California got its first two runners on base in the fifth inning with the Tide holding a 4-2 lead. The first Cal runner reached when Traina struck her out, but the drop ball went in the dirt and got away from Dawson. With a two-strike count, Dawson called for a pitch out and then rifled the ball to Cassie Reilly-Boccia at first base, who made the tag. Bama got out of the inning without giving up a run.

"What set it up was I made a mistake, and I wanted to get my team back in it," Dawson said. "I saw her getting off base and Jackie got ahead of the hitter, so I thought it would be a good time to try it."

Alabama moves on to play Oklahoma in the championship series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. Game one will be on Monday night at 7 p.m. CDT, and will be broadcast on ESPN2. The second game will be Tuesday, as will an "if necessary" game in the two-of-three series.

Murphy said that Alabama and Oklahoma are similar. "They have power up and down the lineup.," he said of the Sooners. "They have good speed in the 2, 9, some really good lefties, some powerful righties. I had (Lauren) Chamberlain in Bogota with Team U.S.A. and I know what she can do. I had Destinee Martinez on that team; I know what she can do.

"And pitching, too, (Keilani) Ricketts and Traina, that would be a heck of a combination.

"I mean, this is the Major Leagues. This is the Major Leagues of softball. It doesn't get any better than this. The people know the game. They love the game. They're respectful. The fans are awesome."

The Crimson Tide had nine hits on the afternoon against California, including two apiece by junior Kayla Braud, sophomore Kaila Hunt, and Traina. Hunt drove in two runs, giving her 76 RBI on the year, in addition to hitting 21 home runs.

Alabama got the scoring started early, jumping out to a lead in the bottom of the second inning, when Traina helped herself out with a solo shot to the center field bleachers, putting the Tide up 1-0. It was her 10th home run of the year, and first since May 4.

The Tide added to its lead in the third inning, when Braud led off with a single and reached second on a throwing error. Senior Jennifer Fenton followed up with a single that moved Braud to third, and Hunt hit an infield single that scored Braud, putting Alabama up, 2-0.

After Cal tied things up with a home run, Alabama answered back in the bottom of the fourth with another run. Senior Jazlyn Lunceford led off with a walk and advanced to third on a single by Traina. Dawson followed up with a single up the middle, scoring Lunceford and putting the Crimson Tide ahead, 3-2.

Alabama added home runs in the fifth and sixth innings, with Hunt's blast to left coming in the fifth while Lunceford led off the sixth inning with a solo shot to right field. The home run was the 21st on the season for Hunt and the eighth for Lunceford.

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