(Photo by Jeri A. Gulsby | UA Athletics)
The University of Alabama softball team's fifth-year senior slugger came into Friday night's game against defending national champion Arizona State at the Women's College World Series with 17 home runs, but was hitless in her last 17 at-bats. She drew a walk and beat out an infield hit to break out of the slump, but big hitters like Locke do things in big ways. Locke couldn't have picked a bigger way to do it than with Friday's monstrous home run to lift the Crimson Tide to a 2-1 victory that leaves UA just one victory away from playing for the national championship. Alabama (57-7) will have today off while top-seeded Cal, Tennessee and Oregon play it out for a spot in Sunday's semifinal round. The team that survives today's elimination rounds will have to beat UA twice, while Alabama will have to win just once to earn a spot in Monday's best-of-three championship series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. Alabama's head coach, Murphy, said after UA's opening-round victory that he was seeing signs that Locke was ready to break out, pointing to a near-homer into a fierce win in the Crimson Tide's opening victory over Tennessee. "I think she's close to where she wants to be. She's very close," Murphy said Thursday. "She's had really good at-bats."
The number two seeded Alabama softball team used a sixth inning solo home run by senior Amanda Locke and an 11-strikeout performance from sophomore Jackie Traina to down Arizona State, 2-1, Friday night at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. The win came in front of a record crowd of 9,209 fans. After not having a hit for the entire NCAA Tournament until tonight, Locke hit a one-out solo home run to center field to give Alabama its first lead of the night - a lead it did not relinquish. It was the 18th home run of the season for Locke, moving her into fourth all-time on the Alabama single season list. With the win, the Crimson Tide improves to 57-7 on the year and advances to the semifinals for the fourth straight time. Arizona State drops to 52-10 on the season.
Amanda Locke hit a tiebreaking home run in the top of the sixth inning, Jackie Traina threw a three-hitter and second-seeded Alabama beat defending champion Arizona State 2-1 Friday night in the winners’ bracket at the Women’s College World Series. Locke drilled a full-count pitch from Dallas Escobedo (24-7) into the center-field bleachers to break a 1-1 tie in the sixth. Traina struck out 11 to put the Crimson Tide (57-7) one win away from the finals for the second straight year.
The 9,209 fans in attendance for the ASU-Alabama game and the Oklahoma-California contest before it made up the largest single session attendance in Women's College World Series history.
"Devonta is an extremely gifted player that is capable of playing multiple positions and has demonstrated the ability to impact games in a variety of ways," Grant said. "He possesses the character and work ethic of a champion student-athlete and will be a great ambassador to our university, community and program."
"They're going to see a player with high energy all four quarters," the five-star player said after making his announcement at his Kemper County High School gym. "They're going to see a player that's going to get up and down the floor and block shots and rebound. "They're going to get highlights. They're just going to see a player that loves to play the game of basketball and hates to lose. I always want to win."
Obviously Pollard is a huge get for multiple reasons including the fact that grabbing a national 5-star caliber kid this late in the recruiting process gives any team a huge boost. For Alabama it’s a chance to get some instant help for the minutes lost with Jamychal Green and Tony Mitchell leaving. He’s a national recruit in every sense and Anthony Grant is battling many of the top programs for his signature." BamaOnline.com’s Tim Watts told al.com before the commitment.
An academic adviser also impressed the 5-star player who averaged 23.8 points, 15.7 rebounds and 5.1 blocked shots last season in leading Kemper County to the state Class 3A championship. "She's not going to let the kids fail," Pollard said. "The coaches are not going to let the kids fail. ... I feel like any way they could help me in becoming more than a basketball player but as a young man, I feel they could do that." Pollard, who as of now will be the Crimson Tide's only newcomer in the upcoming season, said he had a hard time deciding because he liked all of the coaches who were recruiting him down the stretch. "To me, I felt more comfortable at Alabama, and I have made a stronger bond with the coaches at Alabama," he said.
While McCarron is not in the upper echelon of SEC quarterbacks, he’s battle tested and performed the best when it counted. Who doesn’t want that kind of quarterback leading your team? With all the marbles on the line in New Orleans, McCarron played one of his best football games to date. And no, the stat line doesn’t jump out at you, but reviewing the game, McCarron made some key throws in crucial situations. He took what the defense gave him, and he never batted an eye from the get-go. One year under his belt, and one national championship. While his status may never get to "elite" in anyone’s book, another national championship and SEC championship looks particularly good on the resume when arguing the elite status.
SI.com reported that only five times in 14 years would a top-four team have missed the playoffs for failing to win its conference. All five instances involved switching the No. 4 and 5 teams. That assumes the convoluted BCS formula is kept. If there's a selection committee, humans can make the final call regardless of rankings and provide transparency about why they picked who they picked. We can argue about it some and move on with life. The danger with the three-and-one model is the unknown. Or to put it in political terms, allow former U.S. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld to explain: "There are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns." College football can always use the cover of a selection committee when controversy erupts over some selections. (And it will.) There's no such cover if the sport produces an unknown controversy with a three-and-one model through a statistical formula. Keep it simple, stupid. The motto works in college football as well as it does in politics.
"I'm both honored and excited to be here at the University of Alabama," Gonnella said in a university statement. "Coach Saban is the best in the country when it comes to all of the aspects that go into leading a football program. That fact, combined with the history and tradition at Alabama, it doesn't get any better. I just want to do my part to contribute and keep everything going in the same direction that it has been under Coach Saban the last several years."
The cross-division rivals in football will remain the same, except Arkansas will be paired with Missouri and Texas A&M with South Carolina, according to Jon Solomon of the Birmingham News. Long says the 6-1-1 format is only temporary for now and could be changed later. The news is good news for Tennessee and Alabama fans who were concerned that the Tide and Vols’ annual rivalry could be lost if the league had adopted a schedule that did not include a cross-division rival. Solomon said, however, that there is a chance a 6-0-2 model with no cross-division rivals could be revisited in the future.
Q: What are your thoughts on the success of your teams for the 2011-2012 year that include three national championships, while on the verge on two others?
A: Just very proud of our coaches and athletes that participate. Grateful to the University for having such a great university to attract these athletes. We are having a super year for Alabama, and we're very proud.
Q: You have to take a measure of pride because aside from Coach (Sarah) Patterson, you hired all of these coaches. Your thoughts on that?
A: That's the most important thing I do is hire coaches. That's true for any AD. But still, I think we have a great atmosphere for those coaches and for the athletes there, where the best comes out of them. So we're seeing great results. Part of that is the facilities and the atmosphere on the campus. It helps them attract these athletes.
What Alabama did to qualify for the final stage of the NCAA men's golf championships was left in the past. All the first-place finish in stroke play did was give the Crimson Tide a favorable seed for the eight-team match play tournament that will ultimately decide the champion. "You really just start a new tournament," Alabama coach Jay Seawell said. "It is a weird feeling on the chipping green to pull up when there is only a few vans and hardly anyone on the range. It has a different feel, for sure, but we just said, 'start over.'" The Crimson Tide did just that and moved one step closer to the notching the program's fourth national championship of the 2011-12 academic year. With its 3-1-1 victory over Kent State in Friday's quarterfinals at the Riviera Country Club, the Crimson Tide is one of just four teams standing with two days to play.
The strongest opposition came from LSU, which plays Florida as its permanent Eastern division opponent. "The majority spoke, and I suspect that's going to be the issue for a while," LSU Chancellor Mike Martin said. "You lose some and you win some. I think there's going to have to be some reconsideration of it in a year or two. I don't think anyone put a sunset on it." Auburn Athletic Director Jay Jacobs said the rivalries must be preserved. "They're so deeply rooted," Jacobs said. "It's important for us to be able to continue to play Georgia. It just shows the commitment that our ADs and presidents have to what's best for the Southeastern Conference. For us to be able to hold on to those rivalries when in a lot of cases it's not better for everybody else just shows the wisdom in the room and the leadership of Mike Slive."