There was much national complaining last week about the way the NCAA Softball Selection Committee treated Minnesota. The Golden Gophers had won the Big Ten regular season, won the Big Ten tournament, and were ranked first in the nation. And yet Minnesota was sent on the road.
But Alabama could say, “Hey, what about us?” The Crimson Tide of Coach Patrick Murphy had to look at the original NCAA Tournament bracket and think what a tough road had been mapped out for Bama. Not only was the Tide having to host the nation’s top team in Minnesota, if Alabama was able to get past the Gophers it would be off to Gainesville to take on the NCAA tourney’s No. 1 seed, the Florida Gators.
Alabama took care of business in Tuscaloosa last weekend with three consecutive wins, including two 1-0 victories over Minnesota.
That gave Bama its 13th consecutive regional championship and 15th overall and an amazing NCAA Regional winning streak of 34.
That was then, though. Now comes the really tough part. Alabama, the 16th seed in the tournament with a 45-16 record, is off to Gainesville for a best two-out-of-three series against No. 1 seed Florida (53-7). This is one of eight NCAA Super Regionals to determine the participants in the Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City.
The Tide and Gators will meet at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium at 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. central) on both Thursday and Friday. ESPN will televise the games. If a third game is necessary it will be at 5 p.m. EDT (4 central) Saturday.
Alabama and Florida did not meet during the 2016 season.
Bama has gotten a late-season boost with the return of junior Demi Turner at second base. She missed over half the season with an eye injury, but was back for the NCAA Regional and joined junior pitcher Alexis Osorio in earning All-South Region.
Pitching – primarily Osorio, but also senior Sydney Littlejohn and sophomore Madi Moore – has been the key to Alabama success this year. Tide pitchers have thrown 26 shutouts this year (including the two against Minnesota) to tie the Bama record set in 2009.
Osorio leads the SEC and is sixth nationally with 318 strikeouts. Here 2.73 hits allowed per seven innings is best in the nation and her 11.7 strikeouts per seven innings is second in the SEC and fifth nationally.
Florida, of course, has a formidable lineup. On offense, the Gators boast Kayli Kvistad with a .389 batting average and Amanda Lorenz with 64 hits, 10 of them home runs. Kelly Barnhill is the pitching star with 23 wins, an ERA of 0.35, and 310 strikeouts.