Tide To World Series

COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS—It took a little drama, but the eighth-ranked Alabama softball team (62-13) was able to withstand a three-run seventh inning rally and come away with a 6-5 victory over the fifth ranked Texas A&M Aggies (47-10) and advance to its third Women's College World Series in six years.

  "I'd like to congratulate Texas A&M on a great year," said Alabama Coach Patrick Murphy.  "Unfortunately somebody had to go home.  All 1,200 of the fans got their money's worth because that was a great ball game."  

For the second straight game, the Crimson Tide took an early lead, again taking advantage of Texas A&M miscues.  Jackie Wilkins (SR, Miami, Fla.) continued her hot hitting, leading off the game with a single.  She was sacrificed to second by Jordan Praytor (Fr, Vancouver, Wash.) and came around to score on an infield single by Ashley Courtney (SR, Vero Beach, Fla.) and a throwing error by Aggie third baseman Jamie Hinshaw.  Dominique Accetturo delivered a two-out single through the right side scoring Courtney and Alabama had an early 2-0 lead.

  "I thought it was key (getting ahead), especially against (Amanda) Scarborough, because she's got an under seven ERA and only one loss," said Murphy.  "I thought if we got ahead again, it would put a lot of pressure on her."

  The Aggies responded in the top of the second plating two runs on an infield single and a bases loaded walk to tie the game at 2-2.

  Bama reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the second, again taking advantage of TAMU mistakes.  With Leah White (SR, Grayson, Ga.) on second and two outs, Wilkins hit a bouncer to third, but Hinshaw's throw was low, allowing White to score from second and giving the Tide a 3-2 lead.

  Courtney extended Alabama's lead when she hit Alabama's third lead-off home run of the series, a high solo shot down the right field line for a 4-2 lead.  The home run put Courtney in elite company, making her only the second player in Crimson Tide history to record 300 career hits joining former four-time All-America and currently Olympian Kelly Kretschman who finished her career with 368.

  Courtney was at it again in the bottom of the fourth, this time delivering a two-out single down the right field line scoring Capper Reed (SR, Guntersville, Ala.).  Praytor was hit by a pitch, advanced to third on the single and came around to score on a throwing error by Texas A&M right fielder Rocky Spencer pushing the Tide's lead to 6-2.

  The Aggies wouldn't go down without a fight, scoring three runs in the top of the seventh inning before Stephanie VanBrakle (JR, Chambersburg, Pa.) got Joy Davis to ground out to Staci Ramsey (JR, Houston, Texas) at third base, ending the Texas A&M rally and sending the Tide to Oklahoma City.

  VanBrakle (33-6) picked up the win allowing three runs on 11 hits in seven innings of work.  She worked into the seventh inning and recorded an out before being pulled for reliever Chrissy Owens (Fr, Miami, Fla.).  However after allowing a hit and a walk, VanBrakle was brought back in to close out the game.

  "I never really left the game because I was right there cheering Chrissy on from the bench the whole time," said VanBrakle.

Alabama will face the overall fourth seed and fifth ranked Texas Longhorns in the first round of the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City on Thursday, June 2.  The game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. CT and will be televised live on ESPN2.

  Game Notes:

--Dominique Accetturo made he 200th career start.

--Stephanie VanBrakle broke school record for strikeouts in a season with her 311th in the top of the first inning.

--Ashley Courtney moved to fifth on Alabama's all-time home run list while recording her career high 10th home run of the season.

--Courtney became the second player in Alabama history to record 300 hits.

--Alabama advances to third WCWS in six years and second in three years.

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