Alabama softball advances to WCWS Championship series
The Alabama softball team has been in this position before — the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series with only one win between the championship series and the Tide. Things have never ended very well for Alabama in that situation.
That was not the case on Sunday afternoon. The Crimson Tide knocked off the California Bears 4-2 to advance to the championship series for the first time in school history. Alabama will play Oklahoma.
The top seeded Bears had a record of 2-1 in the WCWS heading into Sunday’s game and would need to win twice against Alabama to advance to the championship series.
Sophomore Jackie Traina started the game for the Crimson Tide in the circle, and she quickly got through the top of the first inning unscathed. The Tide managed to get a leadoff single from Kayla Braud, but Cal wouldn’t allow the Tide to cross the plate in the bottom half of the inning.
After Traina retired the Bears in order in the top of the second inning, she returned to the dugout to prepare for her upcoming plate appearance. Amanda Locke and Jazlyn Lunceford were retired on strikes, and Traina stepped up to the plate with two outs. She jumped on a pitch that hung over the middle of the plate and hit a solo home run over the left field fence to give Alabama a 1-0 lead.
The Tide added to its lead in the third inning. After Kayla Braud laid down a beautiful bunt and was able to make it to second base on a throwing error, Jen Fenton stepped into the batter’s box and hit a single through the middle of the infield to advance Braud to third base. The next batter, sophomore Kaila Hunt, hit an RBI single to right field that scored Braud, and the Crimson Tide increased its lead to 2-0.
California finally got things going in the top of the fourth inning. Traina walked the leadoff batter, and after a sacrifice bunt, California quickly had a runner in scoring position. The next batter, freshman Danielle Henderson, drilled a two-run home run to left field to even the score at 2-2.
Alabama would quickly gain its momentum back. Lunceford drew a walk to begin the bottom of the fifth inning, and Traina continued her great game from the batter’s box when she hit a single on a 1-0 pitch. Lunceford advanced to third on the play. Senior Kendall Dawson singled to left center field and Lunceford scored easily to give Alabama a 3-2 lead.
Kaila Hunt added to Alabama’s lead in the fifth inning when she hit a solo shot to left field, and the Tide moved to the sixth inning with a 4-2 lead.
Traina struggled during the top of the sixth inning as the Bears’ first two batters reached base. The pressure was rising on Traina, and the calls from behind home plate were not exactly going her way. That’s when catcher Kendall Dawson made the play of the game.
Dawson received a pitch and quickly threw the ball to first base to pick off Danielle Henderson for the second out of the inning. Just a few moments later Traina struck out the final batter, and Alabama was suddenly three outs away from a berth in the championship series.
Northport native Jazlyn Lunceford hit a solo home run to right field in the bottom of the sixth inning to give Traina a little more insurance to work with in the top of the seventh. The Tide’s advantage was 5-2, and that’s all the cushion Traina would need. She sat down the three California batters in order to secure the Crimson Tide victory.
Alabama now advances to play Oklahoma on Monday at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN.
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