NATIONAL CHAMPIONS: Alabama softball beats Oklahoma 5-4 to win national championship
Nobody ever promised it would be easy. In fact, nobody ever promised this game would even be finished on Wednesday night. The Tide overcame a lengthy weather delay that prevented the game from starting until late into the evening.
From the beginning of the game it looked like Keilani Ricketts would have another other-worldly performance. She easily sat down the Tide’s first and second innings and didn’t even seem to break a sweat.
The same could not be said for Alabama’s Jackie Traina. She began the evening with a bit of a struggle. After a quick first inning, Traina allowed the first run of the game on a solo home run by her nemesis, Ricketts, and the Sooners took a 1-0 lead to the bottom of the second inning. Alabama was retired in order.
In the third inning, the Sooners began with a single through the middle of the infield. Junior Brainna Turang reached on a fielders choice, and Henson, the leadoff batter, was thrown out at second base. Two batters later, Traina gave up a two-run home run to increase the Oklahoma lead to 3-0.
Alabama got its first two hits of the game in the third inning but was unable to manufacture any runs.
And then the drama began. Traina got out of a jam in the top of the fourth inning, and the rain was beginning to come down rather hard. When Ricketts stepped into the circle, it finally had an impact on the game. Ricketts threw numerous wild pitches, and she couldn’t find her spots. Alabama capitalized.
Kaila Hunt began the inning with a single and advanced to second on one of Ricketts’ wild pitches. Traina was retired on a fly out to right field, and Cassie Reilly-Boccia struck out swinging to give Alabama two outs. Hunt advanced on another wild pitch and Kendall Dawson drew a two-out walk.
After another Ricketts wild pitch, Dawson moved to second and Hunt scored to narrow the gap to 3-1.
Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso was frustrated. Her star pitcher was being impacted by the rain. Her low release, and primarily off-speed driven arsenal was being thrown off, and she was missing her spots and throwing wild pitches due to the rain. A weather delay was issued. Alabama savored it.
The Tide stood outside its dugout and cheered and sang along with the Crimson Tide faithful in attendance. Head coach Patrick Murphy urged WCWS officials to force the game to resume. It was raining in the previous inning and Alabama was not impacted. If the weather was so bad, then why was the field not covered?
Whether it was Murphy’s pleading or other causes, the game resumed. Amanda Locke stepped into the batter’s box and forced a full count. Locke drove in Dawson from second base and the lead was only 3-2. Courtney Conley doubled to center field and drove in Locke and in a moment’s notice the game was tied.
Jazlyn Lunceford reached on an error and was able to move to second base. Conley scored from second base. Alabama took momentum and a 4-3 lead to the fifth inning.
Traina retired the Sooners with relative ease, and Alabama returned to bat in the fifth inning to face a struggling Ricketts once again. Jennifer Fenton began the inning with a single and advanced to second on a passed ball. Kaila Hunt moved Fenton to third base on a ground out, and just like that the Tide was threatening once again. The sophomore pitcher, Traina, singled through the right side scoring Fenton from third base and giving Alabama the 5-3 lead.
Oklahoma hit a solo home run in the top of the seventh inning to move within one run of tying the Tide. 5-4 was the score, and Keilani Ricketts represented the go-ahead run or the Oklahoma’s final out. Jackie Traina didn’t waste any time. She struck out Ricketts on three pitches to give Alabama the win and its first national title in program history.
Traina won her school-record 42nd game and struck out six batters on the way to the victory. Alabama finished the season with an overall record of 60-8.
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