They finished it.
After a three-hour rain delay to start things off, Alabama overcame an early three-run deficit to finish off Oklahoma 5-4 and win the school's first-ever NCAA Women's College World Series title Wednesday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City. The victory makes four Crimson Tide national titles for the 2011-12 school year (football, gymnastics, women's golf and now softball).
Alabama's national softball championship is also a first for the SEC.
"It's been a long time coming," said Tide head coach Patrick Murphy. "It's just been an incredible nine or ten days here in Oklahoma City, and each game just got better and better and better. I'm just thrilled with the championship."
The Alabama softball team's motto all season long was "finish it," and that's exactly what they did. Down 3-0 through three innings, the Tide looked flat and OU pitcher and USA Softball Player of the Year Keilani Ricketts was on and already had five strikeouts.
But then everything changed when the rains came in the fourth.
Alabama's Kaila Hunt smashed a single into left field in the pouring rain. She would eventually make it all the way home via three wild pitches from Ricketts, who was clearly rattled by Mother Nature.
With a Bama run on the board, and three wild pitches in Ricketts' stat line, Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso huddled up to the umpires to discuss the weather. Both teams were then told to vacate the field and return to their respective dugouts.
Oklahoma did just that, but the Alabama players stayed on the field, singing in the rain, if you will. The players found the Crimson Tide fan base and there was cheering all around. All the while, the Sooners kept quiet.
About twelve minutes later, play resumed. The rain may have subsided at that point, but there was a momentum-swinging tidal wave as Alabama went on to score three more runs and take a 4-3 lead.
Amanda Locke got it going with a clutch RBI single to left field and advanced to second on the throw. Courtney Conley followed suit with a double to center field that brought Locke home and tied things up 3-3. Then Jazlyn Lunceford singled and advanced to second on the shortstop's throwing error to first base, which allowed Conley to come home and give the Tide a 4-3 edge.
All four of Alabama's fourth inning runs were scored with two outs on the board.
The Sooners almost countered in the fifth. With runners on first and second, Lunceford made a crucial catch at the wall that saved Jackie Traina from giving up a three-run homerun.
In the Tide's half of the fifth inning, Traina had a RBI single to left field, giving her team a 5-3 lead.
Things almost got scary in the seventh—kind of like they did in Game 2 when Traina gave up five runs in the bottom of the inning—when OU's Lauren Chamberlain hit her second homerun of the day to make it a one-run game.
But Traina, who was named Most Outstanding Player in the WCWS, was able to get her sixth strikeout of the night in Ricketts for the final out to set a school season record with 361 strikeouts.
A little slow to start, Traina got into a groove after the fourth inning rain delay and ended up throwing over 100 pitches for the sixth game in a row.
"We dug deep, really deep," said a breathless yet exuberant Traina after the win. "It's such a great moment, I can't even talk right now…this means everything."
The intensity was imminent in both dugouts all night, but Alabama wanted it more.
It's easy to blame the outcome on the rain, but that's just not fair. Both teams were playing in it.
At one point in the early goings, Gasso was interviewed on TV saying her team would "play in the snow," but after three wild pitches from Ricketts in the fourth, Gasso rallied for a game break and got it.
But the Tide used that time to regain energy, get the fans rowdy and came out on fire and finished it.
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