BAMA Softball Advances to WCW
The Alabama Crimson Tide (50-11) swept the Nebraska Cornhuskers (44-18) this past weekend, and in doing so, earned their way to a ninth Women’s College World Series appearance. This is the Tide’s ninth Super Regional win and the third for this year’s senior class. Thursday night was electric as a walk-off homer in extra innings won the game for the Tide, and Friday, the defense held strong to preserve a 2-1 win, and the sweep.
Game 1 Thursday night was a marathon. Bama had to battle back from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game in the seventh 5-5 to force extra innings. Five more innings of intense play ensued until a solo home-run by Peyton Grantham gave the Tide a walk-off victory.
In the circle, Jaclyn Traina was roughed up by the Cornhusker batters, who had 5 runs off 8 hits. Sydney Littlejohn (11-2) entered as relief in the fifth inning and in 115 pitches and through a career high eight innings, the freshman held Nebraska to 3 hits, 0 runs.
The other three freshmen also played a large part in Thursday night’s win. Marisa Runyon’s home-run tied the game in the seventh and Chandler Dare’s catch in right field saved a hit in extra innings. But the most dazzling play was Grantham’s big homer in the 12th, her fourth long ball of the year.
Nebraska took the early 4-0 lead in the first two innings. Fichtner was walked and Lafeale was hit by a pitch, and a single and a bad pitch put them both across the plate to make it a 4-2 game. Nebraska would score in the top of the fourth to make it 5-2, but McCleney and Hays reached the plate in the bottom of the inning to reduce the deficit to 5-4.
Then in the bottom of the seventh inning, Marisa Runyon solo-homered to center field and tied the game 5-5. The inning would end tied to take the game into extra innings. The game would drag on until Grantham stepped up at the plate for the first Alabama at-bat of the 12th inning. With a (2-2) count Grantham swung and rocketed the game winner to left center.
Head Coach Patrick Murphy said after the game, “Thanks for staying with us. I was a little worried when it was a two-hour game through four innings and it ended up being 4:22. It was the freshmen show tonight. All four of them contributed. Sydney (Littlejohn) obviously did her job. When I gave her the ball I said, ‘the job of the reliever is to keep the score the same of the other team,’ and she did it for eight innings. And then Peyton (Grantham) comes through. She had just missed the time before and she didn’t miss that time. It was just a heck of a game to start the super-regional.”
Friday night’s game was less flashy but more efficient for the Tide, but a close battle as well. The Tide opened the game with a 2-0 lead, but that would be all they scored and all they needed as they held on to win 2-1.
Jaclyn Traina (23-3) redeemed herself from the previous night’s performance, earning the win in the circle and pitching every inning. She held the Cornhuskers to 1 run off 3 hits. Traina commented, “I still had a lot of confidence in myself. Days like yesterday happen and I just learn from it. We worked a lot on the off-speed in there today too and that kept them off-balance. We were just on the same page together and it worked out.” Nebraska struggled with Traina’s pitching and only managed to put 5 on base the entire game.
Alabama scored in the first inning in their own fashion, with two outs. Fichtner drove Hunt home and Runyon brought in Spencer. Lafeale would foul out to the infield for the third out. Nebraska would score in the bottom of the 2nd, but the run would be the last scored by either team. Alabama would fail to tack on any insurance in the 7th and Nebraska’s game tying run never got off the plate.
On returning to the WCWS:
Senior, Jaclyn Traina: “This is what we wanted. We made a decision at the beginning of the year that we are going to get where we want to be. Before the game, we had a lot of emotions. I talked to some of the seniors, and we were in the locker room saying ‘this is our last time that we’re going to play at Rhoads Stadium. We are going to leave it all out there.’ It’s a really special time for us.”
Freshman, Marisa Runyon: “Being a freshman, it’s a special moment because our seniors have worked so hard for so long. It is my first time going, I’m beyond excited. To show that all the hard work has finally paid off really means a lot to the whole team.”
Alabama will open the WCWS and play the winner of the 7 Oklahoma vs 10 Tennessee, Thursday May 29.
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