(Photo by Jeri A Gulsby | UA Athletics)
The number two seeded Alabama softball team clubbed three home runs and scored in every inning but the first to down top-seeded California, 5-2, Sunday afternoon at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium. With the win, the Crimson Tide will make its first appearance in the Women's College World Series Championship Series. Alabama sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina threw a complete game two-hitter, striking out six batters and gave up just two runs as she improved to a school record 40-2 on the year. Alabama hit three home runs off of Cal pitcher Jolene Henderson, who fell to 38-4 on the year. No team had hit more than two home runs in a single game against her this season.
"It would be cool to say we’re the first SEC team, but it’s not something that we’re playing for," said sophomore shortstop Kaila Hunt. "We say we’re going to play Alabama softball ... if you go in and you try to play for something that’s maybe bigger than yourself, you’ll get yourself in trouble."
"When we started, we wanted 'GRITS' -- girls raised in the South," Murphy said. "Because they knew all the rivalries in the SEC, and at the time, the SEC was brand-new in softball. People didn't realize what Alabama-Auburn was all about or Alabama-LSU or Alabama-Tennessee or Alabama-Florida. And the kids in the South, they knew the SEC; they knew it because of football. When softball started, it was very easy to stay regional. It was Texas, Alabama and Florida for us for a long time. Those three states really helped us."
The Pac 12's run of Women's College World Series championships has been interrupted. Jackie Traina homered and threw a two-hitter, Kaila Hunt and Jazlyn Lunceford also connected and Alabama beat top-seeded California 5-2 on Sunday to reach the Women's College World Series finals for the first time. The No. 2 seed Crimson Tide (58-7) will face Oklahoma (53-8), which knocked off defending champion Arizona State 5-3 in the other semifinal. Both teams arrive on 11-game winning streaks. The best-of-three championship series starting Monday night marks the first time since 1986 that no Pac-12 teams made it to the finals. The conference had won six straight titles, 10 of the past 11 and 23 of 30 since the tournament started. "There's athletes everywhere now - I mean everywhere - and if you find them, you're going to put together a good team,'' Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. "It doesn't matter who it is or where you're at. Cold weather, warm weather, East Coast, West Coast, if you can put them together and you can coach them up, you're going to have a good team and I think it's great for the sport.''
In the circle, Traina is a right-handed power pitcher who handled Tennessee, Arizona State and Cal to get to the final. Oklahoma counters with lefty Keilani Ricketts, who has struck out 40 batters and allowed just one run per game in World Series victories over South Florida, Cal and Arizona State. "We've got power hitters, obviously, and great pitching," Hunt said of the championship series participants. "Jackie and Keilani, you have two of the best pitchers here in the tournament, and they're powerhouse pitchers. They throw it hard. So I think it's going to be a great matchup for sure."
Keilani Ricketts threw 156 pitches in hot, sticky ASA Hall of Fame Stadium Sunday afternoon. Defending national champion Arizona State, facing elimination, swung at them with their lives. If the Sun Devils didn't hit them, they had to nick a strike zone that occasionally resembled a lima bean. It went like this for 2 1/2 hours, until Ricketts struck out Sam Parlich to finish Oklahoma's 5-3 victory over Arizona State. It was her 13th whiff of the day, and her fifth over the last six outs. Tired, sweaty and wearing a giant ice pack on her left shoulder, Ricketts had one question for OU coach Patty Gasso. "The first thing she asked me," Gasso said, "was, 'What time do we play tomorrow?'"
The University of Alabama men's golf team came up just short on Sunday in the finals of the NCAA Men's Golf Championships at the Riviera Country Club, losing on the final hole to Texas 3-2. "It seemed like we were down all day and we battled back," Alabama coach Jay Seawell said, "But it is still hard to lose." Texas won the deciding match as Dylan Frittelli sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to beat Crimson Tide sophomore Cory Whitsett 1-up. "We wouldn't be here without (Whitsett)," Seawell said. "He didn't do anything wrong. Dylan played really well."
This much is known: the Big Ten strongly favors a selection committee to determine the playoff participants. Eliminate bogus polls. Eliminate most if not all the computer rankings. Assemble a group of senior officials with strong representation throughout college football who meet and decide the four teams. Bottom line: the human element should be paramount.
Even though there are distinct differences in the search for a college football postseason, the money generated will not vary depending on the playoff model, a BCS source told Sporting News. The SEC and Big 12 currently favor a best four teams model to the new playoff, and the Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC favor a model that incorporates conference champions. The looming fight over the face of the new postseason will last through the next two BCS meetings in Chicago on June 13 and 20. But either way—or through any compromise—the money earned through new television contracts will dwarf anything the sport has seen in its history. One BCS source said the new television contract could "more than double" the current deal. "College football is hot," a BCS source said. "Everyone wants a piece of it."