After some of the hubbub died down following No. 6 Alabama softball’s 5-3 come from behind win over Oklahoma to secure a spot in the Women’s College World Series, softball coach Patrick Murphy took his seat for the postgame press conference.
“Did that just happen?” Murphy asked, laughing.
Yes, it did.
Alabama did win two games in one afternoon to stave off elimination. Alabama did just win on a sixth-inning grand slam from its power hitter who hadn’t had a hit all weekend.
In a sport where nothing is decided until the final out, and there isn’t such a thing as running out the clock, Alabama made every last out count. Down to four outs, Alabama only needed one.
Marisa Runyon, who struck out with the bases loaded Friday night for the last out in Alabama’s 5-2 loss and who hadn’t been able to solve the lefty-lefty matchup, needed one pitch to figure out Oklahoma freshman Paige Parker when it mattered most.
“The ball or the game is going to find the kid that seems to be struggling whether defense or offense,” Murphy said. “It’s going to happen. Every time I put a new kid in to play defense, we always say the new girl’s going to get the ball. Same thing with the kid that’s struggling. You have two errors in the game? You’re probably going to get the next ground ball right at you so you just better be ready.”
Runyon was ready.
Alabama would not have been in a game three situation without its freshman right-hander Alexis Osorio who went from good to great after taking Friday’s loss. She went five innings without allowing a hit before getting shelled in the sixth inning of Friday’s 5-2 loss. She didn’t come back and get a no-hitter, but she did shut out the Sooners 2-0 while allowing just one hit to force a game three.
She did strike out NCAA career home run leader Lauren Chamberlain with the bases loaded to keep the game scoreless.
She did come back to start the third game and get the win even after giving up a home run to Chamberlain.
“Props to her – she’s a great hitter,” Osorio said. “I knew I had to go right at her and mix it up every time. I couldn’t be predictable against her.”
She didn’t get to throw a no-hitter but she did throw 365 pitches in just over 24 hours to send Alabama to Oklahoma City.
But Osorio can’t take full credit because without centerfielder Haylie McCleney, Oklahoma scores at least four runs in the top of the first inning of the final game. Instead, Oklahoma scored zero.
McCleney robbed a two-run home run and then closed out the inning with the bases loaded after diving for a line drive.
“She might’ve saved the game on the two catches, not just the one,” Murphy said. “She took away a two-run home run and then she took away I don’t know how many runs on the dive in right-center. She definitely set the tone ‘cause if they score there, it’s a little bit of a downer for us. And she makes those two great plays and now we feel very good about ourselves.”
“That’s typical Haylie though.”
Now, Alabama and seven other teams are in Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series. Over the next week, the teams will play in a double-elimination tournament for the national title. Five of the eight teams are from the SEC (1-seed Florida, 4-seed Auburn, 5-seed LSU and 8-seed Tennessee).
“We thought last year was good,” Murphy said Tuesday. “This year, the parity in the league, I mean anybody can beat anybody. And now it’s almost like the SEC Tournament 2 in Oklahoma City. I know a lot of people probably aren’t very happy about that, but we knew this day would come because as soon as somebody does something good in the SEC, everybody else tries to match it or do better, and if you don’t, you get run over. And it’s happened in every sport, and now softball is just the latest.”
Alabama is the only SEC team that will not open against another conference team. The Crimson Tide (47-13) faces 3-seed Michigan (56-6) in the first round on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
This year, the teams have played each other twice with Michigan winning both games in Tuscaloosa.
“They look like an SEC team to tell you the truth,” Murphy said. “They’ve got two really good pitchers. They’ve got a hall of fame coach that’s just won like 1,400 games. They’re going to be the real deal. It’s going to be a tough opponent.”
The team took Sunday off before practicing Monday. The team will practice again Wednesday which will be Osorio’s first practice since the Super Regional.
“When you have a hot pitcher going into Oklahoma City, that’s usually been a recipe for somebody winning it, and I think we’ve got a hot pitcher,” Murphy said.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports