Tide, Hawaii Split, Play Sunday

Alabama set out Saturday hoping to get in two games–and wins–against Hawaii, which would allow the top-seeded Tide to advance to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City. That event is setting up to be quite the SEC party, with Tennessee and Georgia already in. Bama's speed, defense and pitching versus Hawaii's power had the makings of a fine matchup. Would Bama get its RSVP in Saturday?

No. Alabama and Hawaii split a double-header before 2,918 fans. And the folks from Hawaii, all 50 or so, had these little palm branches they brought to wave.

In this case, "Aloha" did not mean goodbye. At least not yet. The Rainbow Wahine was able to gain the split after losing 8-0 in game one, winning 8-7 in the nightcap. The trip to Oklahoma City and the Women's College World Series will be decided at noon Saturday in a winner-take-all game.

The loss in game two snapped Alabama's school-record 28-game winning streak. The Crimson Tide is now 48-10, Hawaii 48-14.

GAME ONE: Leadoff hitter Kayla Braud bunted her way on, stole second, took third on an errant throw, but was doubled off when Morgan's liner was snared by third baseman Melissa Gonzalez. Ironically, Morgan and Gonzalez were high school teammates in Moreno Valley, California.

Amanda Locke unlocked the tie with one gone in the second when she hit a moon shot that centerfielder Kelly Majam could only admire as it sailed over her head–and the wall–for a 1-0 lead.

Like her sister who pitches for Oklahoma had done the night before against Washington, Hawaii pitcher Stephanie Ricketts had one bad inning that cost her team dearly. Morgan drove in two with the bases loaded in the third. Larsen followed with an RBI single and Locke struck again with a three-run blast that put the Tide up 7-0.

"I've been working hard on keeping my elbow back, and staying down on the ball," Locke said. "I got my pitches, and just connected with them."

For the day, Locke drove in four, while Morgan knocked in three.

Hawaii loaded the bases with one gone in the fourth, but Dunne reached back for extra to strike out Amanda Tauali'I and get Katie Grimes to pop to third, ending the threat. The Tide got the eighth run it needed for the mercy rule when Morgan hit a sac fly with the bases loaded in the fourth. That inning began with a Fenton bunt, a Braud slap, and mishandled bunt off Reilly-Boccia's bat.

Dunne's line in game one: five innings, no runs, two hits, one walk, seven strikeouts, two hit batsmen.

"I found out who Kelsi Dunne is," said Hawaii Coach Bob Coolen. "Everybody was letting me know that, in stands." Coolen said earlier in the week that he didn't know Dunne's name until seeing it in Thursday's editions of USA Today.

GAME TWO: Murphy opted to start Charlotte Morgan in the pitcher's circle, despite ace Kelsi Dunne's dominance in the opener. That did not prove to be Murphy's best move.

"After the rainout (Friday), I was just going to go like a regular SEC doubleheader," said Murphy, who on such occasions all season pitched Dunne in game one and Morgan in the second contest. "We're just glad we get to play again," Murphy added. "It's do or die."

Bama was the visiting team for game two, due to the bracket. That meant Braud led off the game. As is her wont, she bunted her way on, and stole her 45th base of the year. Cassie Reilly-Boccia moved Braud up 60 feet with a groundout, and Morgan drove her home with a sacrifice fly to right. Hawaii responded with leadoff hitter Kelly Majam's nation-leading 30th dinger of the year to tie it up at one.

"I think the first game, we were a little star-struck, with the (big) crowd and the TV (cameras)," said Majam.

Hawaii took a 6-1 lead in the second on an RBI single by Katie Grimes and a grand slam by Jessica Iwata, who said: "Our bats are contagious. We love to hit, up and down the order."

Morgan's final line: three innings, seven runs (only three earned), one walk, one strikeout. "They hit the pitches," she said. "I did the best I could. They just connected with it."

It became 7-1 ninth-place hitter Traci Yoshikawa took Morgan deep to lead off the fourth. Murphy then brought in true freshman Lauren Sewell for an inning, and the freshman gave up no runs.

Next up: a six-run fifth that put the Tide right back in the game.

Morgan got two runs back with an RBI single in the fifth to pull the Tide within four. Amanda Locke singled in one, and then Jazlyn Lunceford drove one to the corner in right that plated Locke. Its lead trimmed to 7-5, Hawaii changed pitchers, lifting starter Kaia Parnaby in favor of Ricketts.

Courtney Conley punched a single to left center scoring Lunceford, and Bama was within a run. Batting for the second time in the inning, Fenton drove in Conley for the tying run. With the Tide now back in it, Murphy brought Dunne in to pitch. Her job: keep the Rainbow Wahine right where they were. For an inning, she did, but a sac fly by Jessica Iwata gave Hawaii the lead back, 8-7 through six. Bama was down to its final three outs.

Bama loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but Morgan popped to second to end it. The Tide had its chances, as it left 11 on in game two.

"It could have gone either way, that second game," Murphy said. "We had opportunities."

Said Morgan: "We're never out of a game. That's what I love about or team."

Added Dunne: "We've lost games. We've come back strong. We've been here before. All we can do is come back tomorrow, and do the best we can. "

NIGHTMARE DELI: Hawaii officials reported several players suffered from food poisoning after a Friday dinner catered by a local eatery.

CLICK IT OR TICKET: Be advised, Alabama law enforcement officials are cracking down on the seat belt law this holiday weekend. Former Alabama Media Relations official J.D. Rutledge, in town as an ESPNU producer, reported he got pulled over for that very thing on the way to the ball park.

BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE: Right behind home plate. That's where Dunne's boyfriend was. That would be former Tide/current Oakland Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain. Just a few rows over sat former Tider and U.S. Olympian Kelly Kretschman, recognized as UA's greatest softball player ever. (Though some would/could make an argument for Morgan.)

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