Visiting team? Different dugout? Same result.
Patrick Murphy’s Alabama softball team will live to host a Super Regional after the Tide raised its record to 49-12 with an 8-0-win over California in the NCAA’s Tuscaloosa Regional Final. Bama has now won a current NCAA-best 31 straight regional (first round) NCAA tourney games. Bama is the only team to advance to a Super Regional since that format was introduced a dozen years ago.
Said Murphy: “That’s 12 straight regional titles. Today was a great day from the very beginning. For the most part, I thought it was a clean game.”
“Our pitching wasn’t there, our defense wasn’t there, and our bats weren’t there,” said Bears Coach Diane Ninemire.
Alabama will host the Washington Huskies in a Super Regional beginning ether Thursday or Friday. Exact dates, times and TV information are to be determined. Washington was host of a regional as a ninth seed.
“They have a very good pitching staff in Seattle, and they have big bats as well. It should be a great matchup,” said Ninemire.
“(Washington) has had a great year. It will be even more fun than this weekend, and very competitive,” said Murphy.
As visitors due to the bracket lay out, Bama batted first, a rarity for the Tide at Rhoads Stadium. Four-time All-America Haylie McCleney doubled to deep left to start the frame. She moved to third on Chandler Dare’s groundout to second. Senior Leona Lafaele then took advantage of a tail wind to deposit her 15th homer of the year over the wall in left center.
The Tide was not done. Third baseman Peyton Grantham, the next batter, drilled a Nisa Ontiveros offering just inside the left field foul pole for her eighth round-tripper of the season. Cal’s ace was pulled after a third of an inning, and in came fellow righty Stephanie Trzcinski. After Reagan Dykes flew out, Andrea Hawkins beat out an infield grounder, but was caught stealing.
The Golden Bears (34-23-1) found themselves down 3-0 before coming to bat for the first time.
“That’s kind of what we wanted,” Murphy said. (Lafaele) doesn’t get cheated. She’s in a group we call ‘the bombers.’ The last month or so, she’s been hot. She’s been doing exactly what we need her to do.”
Cal got two on in the home half of the first, but Bama starter Alexis Osorio got out of the jam.
Osorio (17-6) went 6 2/3 innings, and allowed no runs, three hits, walked two, and struck out seven.
“Rise ball pitcher, you’ve got to attack early and not swing at the rise ball,” said Cal centerfielder Jazmyn Jackson. “(Osorio) was sharp today.”
“She’s a great spinning pitcher. She’s an outstanding pitcher,” said Ninemire of Osorio.
Lafaele said, “It was awesome to see (Osorio) come out on fire like that today. She goes right after them. Just having her out there so calm, to have a pitcher like that, it’s just great to play behind her.”
Making her first start since being injured in Baton Rouge in late March, designated player Demi Turner led off the Bama second with an infield hit. She went first to third on a Sydney Booker infield bunt hit. With one down, McCleney walked to load the bases, Dare then drove a hit to center scoring two, and the junior speedster took second even though Trzcinski cut the throw home off. Lafaele drove McCleney in with a sacrifice fly, and when the dust had settled, Bama led 6-0 going to the bottom of the second.
In the third, Bama loaded the bases for McCleney with two down, but the senior flew out to end the threat.
Dykes singled to open the Tide fifth. Hawkins flew to center, and Turner bunted Dykes over to second. Pinch Marisa Runyon flew out to left, ending the chance of a run-rule win in five innings.
With one down in the Tide sixth, McCleney hit a ball sharply off Cal second baseman Kylie Reed, and legged out a bad hop double. Dare singled off Trzcinski’s glove, and Lafaele singled in McCleney. Grantham grounded into a fielder’s choice, and Dykes popped to second to end the threat and confirm that the contest would go the full seven innings.
Turner (2-for-3) singled over third with one down in the Tide seventh. One out later, pinch hitter Caroline Hardy singled to center, and Turner headed for third. A bad throw skipped by Tennessee transfer/Cal third baseman Taylor Koenig, and Turner scored the Tide’s eighth run.
Osorio walked one in the bottom of the seventh, and with two down, Murphy brought in freshman Madi Moore to finish up. Moore got Jasmin Mejita to ground to second to end the contest.
Murphy was able to play everyone on his roster besides pitcher Sydney Littlejohn.
Alabama got two hits each from McCleney, Dare, Lafaele, Andrea Hawkins, and Turner with Lafaele driving in four – half – of Bama’s runs. The Tide had 15 hits in the game.