Alabama is in good position for the Tuscaloosa NCAA Softball Regional Championship after the Crimson Tide moved into the title game with a 3-1 win over Cal at Rhoads Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Sunday’s NCAA Regional title appearance will be the 14th-striaght for Alabama (48-12), as the Crimson Tide have appeared in the regional championship every year since 2003, winning all but one of those title games. Today’s win also marked the 30th-straight game Alabama has won in the regional round.
Alabama will play the winner of Saturday evening’s Cal vs. Texas State winner at 1:30 p.m. CDT Sunday. If the Tide wins, it has the Regional championship. If Bama does not win that game, there will be a second game at about 4 p.m. for the title and the opportunity to move on to the Super Regional.
If Alabama wins, the Crimson Tide will host the Super Regional.
Following Bama’s Saturday win, Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy said, “It was a well-played game.”
He noted that Bama pitchers Sydney Littlejohn and AlexisOsorio gave up 10 hits to Cal, but only one run. “We kept the ball in the park, made some defensive plays, scored enough and Lexie (Alexis Osorio) picked up Sydney (Littlejohn) for the most part and got out of a big jam there. It was just a typical Pac-12 versus SEC game. It was a great softball game.”
Cal put its first two runners on base in the top of the seventh, but Murphy expressed confidence in Osorio. Murphy said, “When she gave up the two hits in the last inning, I felt like the next couple pitches were more meaningful. It just seemed like she picks up her game a little bit. I don’t know if she gets upset that she gave up a hit or they got on base, but it just seems like the ball has a little more zip and spin when she does that, and they put the ball in play all day long, so you have to give them credit. She made enough pitches, both of them really - Sydney and Lexie did, for us to win the game.”
The Tide fell behind in the first inning as Cal (32-23-1) scored a run, but a pair of runs in the third and some insurance in the fifth ultimately proved enough in the low-scoring affair.
The Bears out-hit the Crimson Tide, 10-6, but left 10 runners stranded and twice left the bases loaded.
Chandler Dare drove in two of the team’s three runs with a third-inning triple and a fifth-inning double with Haylie McCleney scoring on both hits. Sydney Littlejohn (23-6) threw four innings for the win while Alexis Osorio fanned seven batters over three relief innings for her seventh save of the season.
Cal threatened to have a big first inning, loading the bases with one away. A single by Kobie Pettis scored one, but the trailing runner was tagged out at home for the second out. An error loaded the bases again, but Littlejohn ended the threat with a strikeout.
Peyton Grantham led off the bottom of the second with a single and Rachel Bobo, pinch running, was sacrificed into scoring position in the next at-bat. Turning back to the top of the order, McCleney bounced an RBI triple off the wall in left-center to tie the game at 1-1 and Dare followed with another triple to give Alabama a 2-1 lead.
After a leadoff single in the top of the fifth, Alabama turned to its bullpen as Friday winner Osorio entered in relief. A bunt single and some heads-up baserunning by Cal in the next at-bat put two runners in scoring position with nobody out before a walk loaded the bases. A popup and a pair of strikeouts got Alabama out of the jam and held Cal scoreless to preserve the Tide’s 2-1 lead.
McCleney and Dare paired up for another run in the bottom of the fifth, with McCleney drawing a two-out walk and Dare driving her in on an RBI double that fell just past the glove of the diving Cal left fielder to make it 3-1.