TUSCALOOSA, Ala.- In a season that many gave up on after an opening night loss to Lehigh, No. 5 seed Alabama defeated No. 12 seed Northwestern 3-2 to win the Tuscaloosa Super Regional and advance to the Women’s College World Series for the 14th time in program history.
“I cannot tell you how gratifying the last two weeks have been to me,” Alabama Head Coach Patrick Murphy said. “This is a great team with great senior leadership, and they all bought in. It’s still an unreal feeling to sit here knowing that we’re going to Oklahoma City.”
In the winner take all Game 3 the Alabama coaching staff decided to go with the same combination that helped them win Game 2 on Saturday.
Jaala Torrence got the start and was able to go 3.1 innings before running into trouble. Then the Tide turned to their ace, Montana Fouts, to shut the door. Fouts would pitch the final 3.2 innings and in her last game at Rhoads Stadium earn her 100th career win.
“Every single thing that’s happened -the injury, the conversations, the losses -I’d do it all over again 14 times because that has brought us to this moment,” Fouts said.
The Crimson Tide offense struggled early but after a weather delay that lasted about an hour the bats started to come to life.
Kristen White got the first hit for Alabama, an infield single, and then moved into scoring position by stealing second base. Ashley Prange then drew a walk followed by a bunt single from Jenna Johnson. Ally Shipman who was the hero in Game 7 of the Regional delivered again. With the bases loaded and one out, Shipman sent a rocket to the left field fence and drove in two runs to take the lead.
Northwestern cut into the lead in the top of the fourth inning when Kelsey Nader hit a shallow single that drove in Angela Zedak to make the score 2-1.
The score would stay that way until the bottom of the fifth inning when Jenna Johnson hit the first home run of the weekend for the Tide. Johnson connected with the 1-2 pitch and was just able to keep it fair as the ball hit the left field foul pole making the score 3-1.
“When the ball came off her bat I knew it was going out,” Fouts said. “There’s nobody more deserving of a situation like that. She works her butt off for her teammates.”
In the seventh inning, the Wildcats made it interesting when Maeve Nelson hit a home run of her own to cut the lead to just one but was unable to complete the comeback.
Alabama’s quest for a national championship will continue Thursday, June 1 at 11 a.m. CDT when they take on No.4 seed Tennessee in Oklahoma City.
Follow Adam Hambright on Twitter @adamhambright.