The tide changed Tuesday night.
A couple times, actually.
The Crimson Tide have yet to lose to a team twice this season.
Pitcher Jackie Traina, who allowed four runs on 11 hits Monday, earned the win for Alabama, improving to a NCAA-best 41-3 on the season. Through six innings, Traina held the Sooners to one run on five hits, while striking out six and walking three. In the seventh, however, she gave up five runs, including a three-run homerun. She finished with 149 pitches and eight strikeouts. She also tallied two hits and three RBI.
The Tide knocked out USA Softball Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts (37-8) in the fourth inning. She struck out five, but gave up six runs—only two of which were earned—on three hits. Ricketts hit five Alabama batters before getting yanked, a WCWS single-game record.
Alabama took advantage of four OU walks and six total hit-by-pitches to score eight runs.
Oklahoma took an early 1-0 lead in the first, but Alabama answered back with an explosive second inning. Amanda Locke reached on an error and pinch-runner Keima Davis moved to second on a bunt. Jazlyn Lunceford was hit by Ricketts and moved to second on a passed ball, and Davis ran in to tie the game on a fielder's choice by Jennifer Fenton.
Then Kaila Hunt was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Traina hit a base-clearing three-run double to put the Tide up 4-1.
Oklahoma replaced Ricketts with Michelle Gascoigne.
Alabama had a big fourth inning, too. After Kayla Braud was hit by a pitch and Fenton singled, Braud came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Hunt to make it 5-1. Then the Tide loaded the bases and like Traina did before her, Locke hit a base-clearing three-run double to give her team an 8-1 cushion.
The Tide was confident and had made the necessary adjustments from Game 1 to knock the Sooners off their high horse. The Alabama players were loud in the first base dugout and were dancing to the Vengaboys' "We Like To Party" at one point.
But just when it seemed like it was time to close up shop, OU came back in the bottom of the seventh and scored five runs. But Traina was able to strike out the final two batters to finish things off.
Despite the Sooners' seventh inning surge, Alabama had a different energy Tuesday night. Facing elimination, the Tide bounced back and dominated most of the game.
Before Tuesday, Oklahoma was on an 11-game winning streak and had gone 9-0 in the post-season.
Traina has thrown a total of 299 pitches over the last two days, but says her arm will be fine for Wednesday's winner-take-all finale.
"I'm feeling good," she said. "Every night I take a cold bath at the hotel."
Alabama is inching closer to its first softball national championship. Game 3 against Oklahoma is Wednesday night at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.
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