OKC Bound: Alabama wins Tuscaloosa Super Regional with 4-3 victory over Michigan
Alabama entered Friday afternoon in a familiar situation. Win one game and advance to the Women’s College World Series. Lose and face a tense third and final game for a spot in the WCWS. The Crimson Tide didn’t make it easy, but it was just as sweet. Alabama knocked off Michigan 4-3 to clinch a spot in the Women’s College World Series.
Michigan found a way to get runs on the board in the first inning when the Big Ten Player of the Year, senior Amanda Chidester, hit a solo home run to left field. The Wolverines took its first lead of the series 1-0 into the second inning.
Senior Jazlyn Lunceford hit a lead-off single for the Crimson Tide in the top of the second inning, and Cassie Reilly-Boccia reached on a fielders choice to give the Tide two runners with no outs. The next batter, Courtney Conley, was retired on a sacrifice bunt, but the two runners were able to advance and Alabama was quickly threatening any momentum the Wolverines thought it had garnished.
Kendall Dawson followed up Conley’s appearance at the plate with a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Lunceford from third base. Alabama evened up the score at 1-1, but Michigan quickly changed that in the bottom of the second inning.
Senior Steph Kirkpatrick singled up the middle of the infield to score Sara Driesenga from second base. That gave the Wolverines a 2-1 advantage, but Michigan wouldn’t end there. After a Lyndsay Doyle single to third base, senior Bree Evans singled through the middle of the infield to score Kirkpatrick from third base, and the Wolverines took a comfortable 3-1 lead to the third inning.
Alabama was simply unable to manufacture any type of runs against Wager for much of the day. She proved time and time again why she was the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year. When the Tide did managed to reach a base against Wagner she quickly found a way to get out of the inning. In the top of the fifth inning, the Tide turned.
Senior Jennifer Fenton hit a one-out infield single, and the tying run, sophomore Kaila Hunt, came to the plate. Hunt didn’t waste any time deciding what pitch she wanted. She saw a curveball that hung out over the middle of the plate, and she crushed it over the left field fence. The two-run shot was her 20th home run of the year, and it evened the score at 3-3.
With momentum finally on the Crimson Tide’s side, Coach Patrick Murphy knew exactly what he had to do when Kendall Dawson reached on a single to begin the inning. he had to play small ball and manufacture runs. That’s just good coaching. Wagner is a phenomenal pitcher, and in a game like the one the Tide saw itself in on Friday, you have to find runs anyway that you can. Murphy immediately substituted freshman Danielle Richard as a pinch runner.
Danae Hays hit a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt, and Richard moved over to second base without any hitch. What she did next was the most impressive feat of her pinch-running stint. She stole third base without even drawing a reaction from the Michigan catcher. With Richard on third base, the Crimson Tide’s stellar junior Kayla Braud tripled down the right field line to score Richard, and the Tide took a 4-3 lead into the seventh inning.
Alabama was the visiting team on Friday, so that meant that Michigan would get the final appearance in the bottom half of the seventh inning. Michigan needed one run to tie, and two runs to force a third game. Simply put, Jackie Traina closed the door.
The Crimson Tide now advances to the Women’s College World Series and will face the winner of the Knoxville Super Regional.
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