Even when you’re designated the visiting team in you home stadium, there’s a lot to be said for hosting an NCAA softball Super Regional. That’s especially true in Tuscaloosa, where it can get pretty loud in the post-season with a trip to the WCWS in Oklahoma City is on the line.
Such was the case Saturday, when Alabama clinched it’s 11th trip to the title series with a 5-2 win over Washington before a Rhoads Stadium crowd of 3,443.
Sweet Home Oklahoma?
Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy said, “It’s hard to imagine being there 11 times. It’s been a great run. It’s too bad somebody has to lose. I respect the hell out of Washington.
“Alexis Osorio is as gutsy as they come. She’s probably the toughest kid I’ve ever coached. She’s finally gotten into her season mode,and she’s just come on at the end.
I’ll take (Osorios) for four and two thirds with the lead, any time. “
Added freshman catcher Reagan Dykes, “Lex is good under pressure. She got better as the game went on. We needed her, and she was awesome .”
Washington Coach Heather Tarr said, “Tough pill to swallow. I think we had one of the best teams in the country this year, but sometimes things just didn’t go our way .”
Osorio (19-6) was masterful in relief.”
Osorio said, “I feel great. My team won, and we’re going to the World Series. I’m ready to get going. I had (starter) Sydney (Littlejohn’s) back.
“I love to go after people, attack people and get it done.”
No. 6 seed Alabama (51-12) will face Oklahoma Thursday in round one of the WCWS. Bama beat the Sooners last year in the Tuscaloosa Super Regional, and in 2012 for Murphy’s lone national title.
“We can’t get away from them in post season,” Murphy said. “I’m sure it will be another really good game in Oklahoma City.”
With one gone in the Tide third, Chandler Dare reached on a boot by shortstop Ali Aguilar. Leona Lafaele then drew a walk. After Peyton Grantham forced Dare at third on a grounder, freshman catcher Reagan Dykes homered over leaping center fielder Julia DuPonte to put the Tide up 3-0. It was Dykes’ 12th round-tripper of the year.
“Coach Murphy always says a big key to winning is timely hitting. It’s an awesome feeling to experience this,” said Dykes. “I was just looking for my pitch. I took a deep breath, ahnd it just happened to be the first one.
Demi Turner then got her second hit of the game, and Andrea Hawkins took a pitch while Turner stole her 12th base of the season. Hawkins then laced an RBI single up the middle scoring Turner. Had pitcher Taran Alvelo not cut the ball thrown by DuPonte off, there may have been a play at the plate. Reliever Madi Schreyer replaced Alvelo after Hawkins’ hit, and after 2 1/2 innings, Alabama was up 4-0.
Washington avoided the shut out on a one-out RBI single by Ali Aguilar in the bottom of the third. After Kimberlee Souza chased Aguilar to third with a single to right, Murphy brought in Friday starter/winner Alexis Osorio to quell the rally. The sophomore righty, who threw a career-high 156 pitches 17 hours earlier Friday, gave up a sacrifice fly by Taylor Van Zee before Casey Stangel walked, but Osorio got Dani Braun to fly to Case in left to end the frame. After three innings, the lead had been cut to 4-2.
The Huskies (39-15) threatened again in the home half of the fourth, but with two on and two out, Osorio got Aguilar swinging after the Huskies star shortstop tried to lean into a pitch to get on base.
“It hit her wrist. You’ve got to have your players back, but the umpire didn’t see that,” said Tarr.”(The umpire) said it hit the bat, but there was like a goiter on her wrist.”
Aguilar entered the game tied for fourth nationally in homers with 21. She did not leave the yard in two Tuscaloosa games.
With one gone in the Tide sixth, Hawkins beat out a high chopper she slapped to short. Pinch-hitter Marisa Runyon batted for shortstop Sydney Booker, who had a pair of Sports Center Top 10 plays including one in the previous inning. Runyon moved Hawkins to second on a fielder’s choice, and senior Case dug in for her final home at bat. She took advantage of it, lining a single to left. Case then got involved purposely in a run down, and the speedy Hawkins was able to score while Case made it back to first safely.
McCleney then came up for her final time at the Rhoads House, and the senior All-America fouled off several 1-2 pitches from Schreyer before popping out to second.
Aguilar had another chance to change the game with two on and two out in the sixth for Washington. Osorio used a variety of pitches before getting Aguilar to flail at a 2-2 rise ball, to the delight of the crowd.
Dare walked to open the Tide seventh. Lafaele’s final home at bat resulted in a fielder’s choice to second, erasing Dare. After Rachel Bobo ran for Lafaele at first, Grantham took a pitch and Bobo was caught stealing. After Grantham was caught looking, Osorio needed three outs to help her team to the Series.
The bottom of the seventh saw three full counts with positive results for Osorio. Souza chased a 3-2 change; Van Zee took a 3-2 curve; and Stangel waved goodbye at a 3-2 riser.
“I was just fired up. It was a great experience ,” said Dykes of that final frame.
Osorio, who had 86 pitches after 156 on Friday, struck out eight of the 16 batters she faced and gave uo only three hits and two walks.
Turner and Hawkins had two hits each for Bama.