Having successfully emerged from the loser's bracket and defeated top-seeded Oklahoma once in the Women's College World Series semifinals, a tired University of Alabama softball team wasn't able to do so again and saw its season come to an end Sunday night.
The Crimson Tide took a 7-3 loss in the nightcap, after playing until approximately 12:45 a.m. the night before and in extra innings earlier in the day
Alabama finished the season with a 60-10 record.
“They taught me a lot,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said about this year’s Team 23. “Everybody wanted to keep playing. That’s a credit to them. We really looked forward to every practice and everything we did together as a group. It was a lot of fun. This was one of the most fun teams and enjoyable years I’ve ever had.”
The 1-0 victory earlier Sunday, capped by an eighth-inning walk off RBI single from senior Caroline Hardy, was the first shutout loss for top-ranked Oklahoma (57-4) this season and forced the teams into an if-necessary game.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to go out than finishing with this group at the World Series,” Hardy said. “When Coach Aly [Habetz] hugged me at the end of the game, she said ‘You’re going to be a champion in life’. That’s what’s so important about Alabama softball. When I take off this jersey for the last time, I’m prepared for that.”
Freshman Skylar Wallace went 2-for-3 in the final game, including a two-run home run in the sixth inning to keep Alabama within striking distance.
No. 1 Oklahoma jumped out to an early lead in the decisive game, with a walk leading to a run on a Caleigh Clifton RBI-double. She also scored on a pair of wild pitches.
With one out in the top of the second, senior catcher Reagan Dykes blasted a solo home run to left field to cut the deficit in half.
Oklahoma responded by bringing in pitcher Mariah Lopez (19-1) out of the bullpen, and the Sooners subsequently broke the game open with two out and a runner on in the bottom of the fifth when sophomore Jocelyn Alo hit a two-run home run to center field for a 4-1 lead.
Dykes drew a two-out walk in the top of the sixth and, facing an 0-2 count, Wallace went opposite field for a two-run home run.
But it turned out to be Alabama's last gasp.
Oklahoma pulled away with three runs in the bottom half of the inning with another two-run home run, ending starter Krystal Goodman’s night. Junior reliever Sarah Cornell gave up a solo home run to complete the scoring.