TUSCALOOSA, Ala.- No. 5 seed Alabama defeated Middle Tennessee 12-5 to advance to the Regional Final for the 20th straight postseason.
“A win is a win at this time of the year,” Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. “Whether the score is 1-0 or 13-12 as long as we’re on the winning side I’ll take it.”
The 12 runs scored is the first time since March 22 against UAB that the Tide have scored more than 10 runs in a game.
Most of those runs came from the bats of Kali Heivilin and Bailey Dowling who combined for seven RBIs in the win.
Heivilin finished with three RBIs, two of which came from a two-run home run in the top of the fourth inning and the RBI came in the fifth inning when she was able to draw a walk with the bases loaded. Dowling had four RBIs of her own with two coming from a double to left field that drove home Faith Hensley and Ashley Prange and the other two coming from a single that allowed Jenna Johnson and Kristen White to score.
“I’m just going up there and having fun,” Heivilin said. “That’s what our team goal is right now, to just go out there and prove who we are and that we deserve this five seed.”
The Blue Raiders jumped out to an early lead after getting two home runs to take the 2-0 lead.
The first came from Laura Mealer in the bottom of the first inning when she sent the ball over the wall in center field with plenty of room to spare for her team-leading 11th home run of the season. The second came the very next inning from Ansley Blevins for her sixth of the year.
After falling behind 2-0, Alabama finally answered in the top of the third inning with four runs. The first two came after two fielding errors by the Middle Tennessee first baseman that allowed Jenna Johnson to reach base safely while Heivilin and White scored to tie the game. Then the Tide took the lead on the two-out double to left by Dowling.
Middle Tennessee took back the lead in the bottom of the third when they scored three runs and forced a pitching change. Alabama replaced Alex Salter with Jaala Torrence who had pitched a complete game the night before.
Torrence limited the damage, got out of the inning and shut down the Blue Raiders for the rest of the game.
The Crimson Tide responded by scoring eight runs in the top of the fourth inning.
The first four runs came from Heivilin and Dowling and the last four came when Alabama drew five straight walks and got one wild pitch to bring their total score to 12.
“In that fourth inning we were fired up,” Heivilin said. “It just took one person to get on base, one person to get a hit and the rest of the offense was going to follow.
Alabama will now have to wait through two games to see who they will face on Sunday.
The Tuscaloosa Regional Final will be at 1 p.m. CDT.