Now comes the hard part. As expected, No. 1 ranked Minnesota cruised into the second day of NCAA Regional Play at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, and home-standing Alabama won its 32nd consecutive NCAA Regional game with a 5-1 win over Albany.
Next up, Alabama and Minnesota face off at 1:30 p.m. CDT Saturday in the double elimination tournament.
Alabama (43-16) fell behind early after a second-inning RBI single by Albany (27-17) but a solo home run by Reagan Dykes in the bottom half tied it up and the Tide tacked on one more in the third and three in the fifth to bring the score to 5-1.
Elissa Brown scored two of the team’s five runs at the leadoff position, drawing a season-high three walks. Dykes’ home run was part of a 2-3 day for the sophomore and Bailey Hemphill also added her own long ball, a two-run shot in the fifth inning for her ninth home run of the year.
Demi Turner made her return to the field for the first time since her injury on April 1, entering as a defensive replacement in the top of the sixth and drawing a walk in the bottom half.
Madi Moore pitched 2 1/3 innings to start the game but Sydney Littlejohn (16-8) earned the win in relief, needing just 58 pitches over 4 2/3 shutout innings allowing just two baserunners.
In the top of the second, Albany’s Chelsea Henige delivered a one-out double and later with two on base, a single up the middle by Shaye Swiatek scored one to put the Great Danes up 1-0. Dykes tied it up in the bottom half of the inning, smashing a solo home run on the third pitch of the inning.
A pair of hit-by-pitches put two on for Albany in the top of the third and Alabama brought in Littlejohn to pitch. A throw down to second caught the runner off the bag for the second out and a groundout ended the half-inning with it still tied 1-1.
In the bottom of the third, a leadoff walk by Brown and a sacrifice bunt by Chandler Dare moved the freshman into scoring position and Marisa Runyon brought her home with a single up the middle.
Brown drew her third walk of the day to lead off the bottom of the fifth, stole second, and came home on an RBI single by Dare to extend the lead to 3-1. Hemphill tacked on two more with a towering home run to make it 5-1.
Alabama couldn’t add to its four-run lead in the sixth inning but a two-out single was all Albany could muster in the top of the seventh as the game ended in the Tide’s favor, 5-1.
The Minnesota Golden Gophers (55-3-0) beat the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters (37-23), 11-3 in five innings to win game one.
The Gophers scored three in the bottom of the first, five in the bottom of the second, and three in the bottom of the third.
Both teams used three pitchers in the run-rule shortened game with Amber Fiser taking the win for Minnesota, going to 14-0 on the season while Krystal De la Cruz took the loss, dropping to 13-4.