Alabama Softball Advances to National Championship Series
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – In a matchup of the NCAA Tournament’s top two seeds, it was second-seeded Alabama that came out on top Sunday, winning its ninth-straight Women’s College World Series game with a 2-0 shutout over Oregon to advance to the WCWS championship series for the second time in three years.
Timely hits again proved the difference in Alabama’s (53-11) two-run victory, with Jaclyn Traina (26-3) shutting down the Oregon (56-9-1) offense, limiting the Ducks to just four hits while striking out eight. She has now struck out 23 batters over 21.0 innings pitched in the Women’s College World Series, allowing just one earned run off nine hits.
Haylie McCleney went 2-4 out of the leadoff spot, popping her 10th home run of the season to break the scoreless tie in the fifth inning, while Molly Fichtner drove in the second RBI of the day off a single later in the same inning. The Ducks started Karissa Hovinga in the circle, who threw 3.1 scoreless innings before being replaced by First Team All-American Cheridan Hawkins (35-6), who took the loss in relief.
Alabama looked to get a two-out rally going in the bottom of the third, as Danielle Richard and Jadyn Spencer hit back-to-back singles through the left side. The 3-1 pitch to Kaila Hunt was outside as she drew a walk to load the bases. Fichtner hit a hard fly ball near the gap in left-center but the Oregon outfield was shifted to the left, allowing the centerfielder to camp under it for the third out and strand the bases loaded to keep the game scoreless.
Traina pulled a one-out single through the left side in the bottom of the fourth and the Ducks pulled Hovinga in the circle, turning to their ace Hawkins in relief. She did her job out of the bullpen, as a strikeout and a popup ended the inning with the two teams still scoreless.
McCleney broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo home run into the right-field stands to make it 1-0. The home run was her first in exactly one month, last hitting one on May 1 at Missouri. With two outs in the inning and Hunt at first base, Fichtner dropped a single just in front of the sliding Oregon center fielder that bounced past her. The hop allowed Hunt to score all the way from first, sliding under the tag attempt at home to make it a 2-0 ballgame. A strikeout ended the half-inning but the Tide was now in front by two.
In the bottom of the sixth, Traina led off the inning with a single up the middle and Ryan Iamurri, pinch-hitting, reached on a bunt single that got past the third baseman to put two on with nobody out. Chaunsey Bell, pinch-hitting, reached on a fielder’s choice as the force out was applied at third. A fly out and caught stealing ended the half-inning but put Alabama just three outs away from advancing to the Women’s College World Series championship series.
Kailee Cuico ended Traina’s streak of 11-straight batters retired, poking a single into right field to lead off the top of the seventh for Oregon. Janelle Lindvall took a huge swing on the 2-2 pitch, as the ball had the distance for the game-tying home run but it was called just foul down the left-field side. Traina bounced back with the next pitch to catch her looking at strike number three for the first out. A foul fly ball went for out number two but Koral Costa kept the game alive with a single to left, putting two on with two out. Freshman Sammie Puentes came in to pinch hit for the Ducks as the potential winning run, but she ultimately struck out as Traina caught her swinging for her eighth strikeout of the day to give Alabama the 2-0 win to advance to its second Women’s College World Series championship series in three years.
The Tide will face the Florida Gators (53-12), who defeated Baylor 6-3 earlier on Sunday. This is the first-ever meeting between two SEC teams in the WCWS championship series and is the fourth time Alabama and Florida have met in the WCWS. The Tide took two out of three games from the Gators in Gainesville earlier this season. First pitch of game one is set for 7:05 p.m. CT and will be aired live on ESPN2.
Courtesy: UA Media