Alabama couldn’t hit the ball past the pitcher in the fifth inning at Florida Thursday in the NCAA Softball Super Regional, but that worked out just right for the Crimson Tide. Bama scored three runs without a hit and Alexis Osorio made it stand up with shutout pitching as Alabama defeated the No. 1 seeded Gators in Gainesville, 3-0.
Game two of the best-of-three series is set for a 7 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. CT start on Friday. ESPN will televise the game.
The winner of the Super Regional advances to the Women’s College World Series.
Alabama scored all three of its runs in the top of the fifth, capitalizing on two throwing errors by Florida starter Kelly Barnhill (23-3) on a pair of sacrifice bunt attempts. The three runs scored are the most allowed by the Gators since its 3-1 loss to Florida State on May 3.
The Tide’s leadoff single by Demi Turner in the top of the first would be its lone base runner until the fifth inning, as Barnhill retired 11 straight before Bailey Hemphill drew a leadoff walk in the top of the fifth.
With pinch-runner Mari Cranek on first base for Hemphill, Reagan Dykes laid down a bunt. Barnhill tried to get the force out at second, but her throw was too late, putting two on with no outs. Chandler Dare followed with another sacrifice bunt attempt. Barnhill fielded the ball, but her throw to first was high and went down the right field line, allowing two runs to score and Dare to go to second. The third sacrifice bunt attempt of the inning by Sydney Booker was also fielded by the Florida pitcher and the throw to first was also overthrown, scoring Dare.
Alabama (46-16) was again led by a stellar pitching performance from Osorio (23-7), earning the complete-game shutout win while limiting No. 1-seeded Florida (53-8) to just three hits. Tide pitching has only allowed one run during the NCAA Tournament, including a current streak of 28 2/3 scoreless innings. Thursday’s shutout was the 27th of the season for Alabama, which sets a new single-season school record.
Osorio struck out eight and walked only three, but hit four batters as Florida left eight runners on base. Barnhill fell to 23-3, but struck out 11 and walked only three while giving up just one hit before being relieved by Aleshia Ocasio after giving up two walks to start the sixth inning. Bama got two hits off Ocasio – by Sydney Booker and Rachel Bobo --, but couldn’t score again.
Florida is now 53-8 on the season.
Florida got a pair of runners on base in both the first and second innings, but Alabama got out of the jam each time, doing so on a strikeout in the first and a pickoff at second base in the second.
Florida would load the bases with two out in the bottom of the fifth and Janell Wheaton would battle through a 12-pitch at-bat but a fly ball to left kept the Gators scoreless.
Alabama could not add to its three-run lead in the top of the seventh. Osorio struck out the first two Gators in the bottom of the seventh. After a base on balls, a popup to deep second base ended the game.