Alabama, which had perhaps the toughest road of any of the eight in Oklahoma City for the WSCS, is the lone SEC team in the bottom half of the bracket. Four SEC teams are in the top half, and one of those four – Florida, LSU, Auburn, or Tennessee – will emerge as one of the finalists.
Bama, which had to come from behind in both the series and in the final game of the Super Regional in Tuscaloosa Saturday against Oklahoma, is the six seed at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. Alabama opens play at 6 p.m. CDT Thursday against third-seeded Michigan. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
The winner of that game will face the winner of Oregon vs. UCLA on Friday at 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2), while the two losers will play on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. (ESPN) in an elimination game.
Alabama is also familiar with Michigan, and not always with pleasant memories. The Crimson Tide and the Wolverines have met 15 times previously, with Michigan winning nine of those games including two earlier this season in Tuscaloosa. The teams have previously met four times in the NCAA Tournament with each team winning two games.
This is Alabama’s 10th trip to the WCWS and the Tide’s fourth appearance in the last five years. Bama won the national championship in 2012 and was runner-up last year.
The SEC having five of the eight teams in the WCWS ties a record. The Pac-12 had five teams in 1999.
The rest of the opening schedule on Thursday is Florida vs. Tennessee at 11 a.m., Auburn vs. LSU at 1:30, and Oregon vs. UCLA at 8:30.
Alabama was ranked fifth in one national poll and sixth in the other going into the NCAA Tournament. In the Super Regional in Tuscaloosa last week, Bama had to face Oklahoma. Although the Sooners were an 11 seed, Oklahoma was also ranked fifth in one national poll, sixth in the other. The games reflected the closeness of the teams.
The Sooners came from behind to win the opening game, but Alabama rebounded to even the best-of-three series with a 2-0 shutout, and then won its way to Oklahoma City with a dramatic 5-3 come-from-behind victory in game three.
A team coming back from an opening loss in 88 Super Regionals has proved to be an unlikely event. When Bama did it Saturday, it marked just the 14th time it has happened. Alabama had one of those previous 13 with its 2011 comeback at Stanford.
Sophomore outfielder Marissa Runyon and freshman right-handed pitcher Alexis Osorio were the stars of the Super Regional for Alabama. Runyon didn’t have a great series at the plate; she was on a 13 at-bat hitless streak when she came to bat for the last time in the bottom of the sixth inning Saturday. She had been 0-8 against Oklahoma. But when she got a chance with the bases loaded and two outs, she sent the first pitch over the right field fence to secure the 5-3 victory. She is now tied with Charlotte Morgan for the single season lead in runs batted in with 79. It was her fourth grand slam homer of the year.
The other star of the series, Osorio, went up against the nation’s top hitting team for 20 1/3 innings, allowing just seven runs (six earned) on nine hits and striking out 17.