Runyon's Grand Slam Gets Tide To World Series

Facing a one-game deficit in a best-of-three series against Oklahoma, Alabama won game two, 2-0, to force a deciding game three which the Tide won 5-3 courtesy of a sixth-inning grand slam by Marisa Runyon. The win secures Alabama’s 10th trip to the Women’s College World Series, which begins Thursday in Oklahoma City.

Alabama has now made it to the Women’s College World Series in four of the last five years, including a national title in 2012 and a runner-up finish in 2014. This is just the 14th time in the history of the Super Regional round that a team has come back from a game one loss to win games two and three. Alabama accomplished this feat previously in 2011, falling in game one to Stanford before rebounding with wins in games two and three.

Alabama (47-13) was again led by two gutsy performances by Alexis Osorio (21-8), who threw a combined 241 pitches between Saturday’s two games. The NFCA Freshman of the Year candidate shut out the potent Oklahoma (49-9) offense in game one before allowing three runs on five hits in game two, including a pair of home runs by NCAA career leader Lauren Chamberlain. Marisa Runyon, who was hitless over her previous 13 at-bats, made her final one of the weekend count, blasting a go-ahead grand slam in the sixth inning that gave the Tide a 5-3 lead, which proved final. The grand slam now ties her with Charlotte Morgan for the single-season RBI record at Alabama with 79.

Oklahoma’s own Freshman of the Year candidate Paige Parker (28-7) threw every inning this weekend for the Sooners, allowing a combined nine runs over 20 innings in three complete games. All three of Chamberlain’s hits this weekend were home runs, as she ends her career with an NCAA record 95 home runs.

GAME ONE: ALABAMA 2, OKLAHOMA 0

Alabama scored just two runs for the second straight game, though it proved enough on Saturday as Alexis Osorio shut down the Oklahoma lineup, holding the nation’s top hitting team scoreless on just one hit, its lowest total of the season. The Tide’s two runs came on one swing, a two-run homer by Jadyn Spencer in the third inning, making her the sixth Alabama player to hit a home run in this NCAA Tournament. Sooner starter Paige Parker took the complete game loss, turning in another quality performance with two runs allowed on two hits.

The two teams cruised through two scoreless innings before a two-out walk to Haylie McCleney in the top of the third extended the half-inning and allowed Spencer to blast a two-run homer over the fence in left field, giving Alabama the early 2-0 lead. The Sooners wouldn’t get a runner on base until Shelby Pendley was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning but a pair of shallow fly balls ended the inning as she was left stranded at first with the score still 2-0.

The Sooners would threaten again in the next inning, as a pair of walks would put two on with one out, bringing the potential go-ahead run to the plate. Nicole Pendley went down swinging for out number two but Callie Parsons battled to a full count and legged out an infield single, the first hit of the day for Oklahoma, to load the bases with two out in the inning for Lauren Chamberlain. On a 2-2 count, the Sooner slugger swung under an Osorio rise ball for a strikeout to leave the bases loaded as Alabama held onto its 2-0 lead.

The score remained 2-0 heading to the seventh inning as Alabama was now three outs away from forcing a deciding game three. A high popup went for out number one but Kady Self battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk and bring the potential tying run to the plate. A groundout moved Self up to second base but a high popup in the next at-bat went for the final out as Alabama held on to win, 2-0.

GAME TWO: ALABAMA 5, OKLAHOMA 3

Down to its final four outs facing a 3-1 deficit, Marisa Runyon launched a two-out grand slam in the sixth inning that ultimately proved the difference in the Tide’s huge 5-3 comeback victory to secure the Super Regional series. Osorio turned in another outstanding pitching performance to get the win.

After a leadoff walk to Lauren Chamberlain in the top of the first, Shelby Pendley launched a would-be home run ball to dead center but McCleney reached over the wall to rob the senior of the long ball and keep Oklahoma out of the run column. The Sooners would eventually load the bases with two outs in the half-inning, but McCleney again flashed the leather with a great diving catch in the right field gap to end the inning and hold the Sooners scoreless.

The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning. McCleney led off the half-inning with a standup double into the right field corner and Spencer was intentionally walked behind her to set up a force at any base with one out. Chaunsey Bell put the Tide on the board with a single that fell in front of the Oklahoma center fielder, making it 1-0.

In the next half-inning, a fielding error to lead off the inning proved costly as Chamberlain followed that with a two-run homer that just cleared the fence in left field, giving the Sooners a 2-1 lead. Oklahoma would eventually load the bases with one out, but a fantastic play in foul territory by Danae Hays and a groundout to Demi Turner would strand the bases loaded and limit the damage as Oklahoma could not add to its one run lead.

With two out in the top of the sixth and the score still at 2-1, Alabama made a pitching change with Chamberlain up to bat as Sydney Littlejohn entered in relief of Osorio. Chamberlain battled to a 2-2 count and blasted her second home run of the day, as the solo shot stretched the Sooners’ lead to 3-1. Osorio would reenter the game for Alabama and, after a walk, would force a popup to end the half-inning with the Tide now trailing by two.

In the bottom of the sixth, a one out single by Jadyn Spencer would bring the potential tying run to the plate and a walk and hit by pitch later in the inning would load the bases with two outs. Runyon, having gone 0-13 in her last 13 at-bats, came through with the biggest hit of the game, blasting a grand slam to right field to put the Tide ahead 5-3. A fly ball ended the inning, but Alabama was now just three outs away from securing a trip to the Women’s College World Series. Oklahoma would go down in order in the top of the seventh as the 1-2-3 inning closed out the comeback victory for Alabama.

Alabama will open Women’s College World Series play on Thursday, May 28 against Michigan, who defeated Georgia in two games this weekend in Ann Arbor. The Tide and the Wolverines met earlier this season in Tuscaloosa, with Michigan winning both games.

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