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Washington softball uses long ball to take 2 from Alabama

Tide pitching gives up four homers in hard luck series against Pac-12 power

Two run shot in 7th serves as preview of Game 2
Washington’s Kirstyn Thomas hits lunging homer off Osorio Friday in Game 1

Revenge is best served cold

Washington’s football team couldn’t beat Alabama last season, but the Huskies softball team not only managed to take two games from the Tide in Tuscaloosa over the weekend, they now own the all-time series with Bama 6-5. More importantly for them, they exacted a measure of revenge (or two) against Alabama, the team that has eliminated them in the NCAA softball regionals the past two years.

Game 1

Friday night’s game was decided by a two run homer in the seventh that gave U-Dub a 3-1 lead in front of the sell out crowd at Rhoads Stadium. That proved to be the difference in a 3-2 Huskies’ victory. For the record, Alabama had the go-ahead run at the plate in its final at bat but pinch hitter Marisa Runyon flied out on the first pitch to end the game.

Washington’s Taran Alvelo, who throws a wicked 69 mph fastball, and Alabama’s Osorio were evenly matched. Each gave up only six hits, Alvelo walked two, Osorio one. Alvelo had seven strike-outs to Osorio’s six. This was a pitchers’ duel until the final frame when the Huskies’ first baseman Kirstyn Thomas took the ball over left center.

Sadly, for Alabama and Osorio, the home-run was hit off a pitch that would have been a ball, very wide left to the right-hander. Thomas lunged out, managing to make contact and was able to power the ball out.

Given the Tide’s short-comings at the plate probably few of the 3093 folks on hand, or thousands more watching via the SEC Network, expected a come-from-behind rally— and it was not to be. Again.

A side note from Game 1: Kirstyn Thomas, she of the game winning hit, came to UW as a pitcher and, as such, lost the game with Alabama in 2015 that ended the Huskies’ hopes for an appearance at the WCWS in Oklahoma City. She lost her spot in the pitching rotation but the extremely athletic young lady has since transitioned to first base. Good for her. (Although that doesn’t make me feel any better.)

My Take

Positives: Washington took a 1-0 lead in the fourth and Alabama struck back immediately in the bottom of the inning when freshman left fielder Gabby Callaway doubled home the base-runner Reagan Dykes. The Tide did strand runners on the corners, but they showed some life after giving up a run.

Negative: When push came to shove U-Dub’s batters came through, Alabama’s did not. Still no word on when lead-off batter and leading batter 2nd baseman Demi Turner will be back from the facial injury (broken occipital bone) suffered April 2nd. Originally she was listed as out for 10 days, but it is now day 21 and not a word (that I’ve heard anyway) on her anticipated return. I don’t want to rush her, but....

Game 2

The second game of the series opened on a deflating note for the Tide when Washington short stop Ari Aguilar took Sydney Littlejohn’s first pitch over the center field fence. Just like that, before announcer Chris Stewart got through the starting line-ups, it was 1-0 Washington.

Homers were the story of the game. The Huskies added another solo shot off the bat of DP Julia DePonte in the fifth inning. Alabama’s Littejohn gave up only three hits on the day but two of them were home runs. Meanwhile Bama did nothing at the plate, although Washington did walk two batters in the fifth. The heart of Alabama’s line-up Reagan Dykes, Gabby Callaway, and Peyton Grantham all went down without advancing the runners.

With the Tide still down 2-0, Alexis Osorio came on in relief in the sixth and promptly surrendered the third solo home run of the day to second baseman Sis Bates. Again Alabama got two runners on in the bottom of the inning, but the lead runner never even made it to third. The seventh inning too was a total washout. (An apt term considering the game had a lengthy delay for lightning in the top of the fifth and then was finished in a downpour. All but a few of the three thousand fans long gone by the time the Tide officially lost.)

My Take

Positives: The score could have been worse. All three homers were hit with no one on base. The Alabama pitchers again pitched well enough to win, but had zero run support.

Negatives: Alabama’s record is now 37-11. 7 of those 11 losses have been shut-outs. Not good. The Tide is currently in 5th in the conference standings, behind Florida, Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Auburn. This weekend’s losses were out of conference fortunately but the 12th ranked Tide will fall further in the national rankings due out Tuesday. (Keep in mind for post-season: only the top 16 teams at season’s end will host a regional. Alabama does not want to start its initial quest to make the 2017 WCWS on the road.)

Stat that matters

Alabama has hit into double plays 9 times this season, the third most in the conference. (Speaking of which, Washington turned an odd double play against the Tide in game 2 when Claire Jenkins hit a deep fly to center with Chandler Dare on first. Dare thought the ball was going out and got as far as second when she saw the centerfield make the catch. She hustled back to first and beat the throw. But an umpire noticed that she tagged second base on what would have been her way around the bases had the ball gone out, but she neglected to re-tag the bag as she ran back to first. Apparently that is a no-no and she was out, the double play ending the inning.)

Conversely, and more germane to this conversation, the Tide has only turned 10 double plays all season—tenth fewest of thirteen SEC teams. Compare that to Auburn’s 36. When a team is struggling at the plate the old twin killing is the pitcher’s best friend and Alabama’s defense isn’t getting it done.

Next up:

Bama plays another mid-week game (cupcakes that help pad the W column) at Samford Tuesday at 6pm central. The Tide then travels to Ole Miss for a critical (Saturday-Sunday-Monday) series against the Rebels. Ole Miss is ranked 9th in the SEC but did sweep LSU in Oxford a couple of weeks back. First game Saturday at 2pm CDT.

Apr 25 (Tue) 6pm CDT at Samford Birmingham, Ala.

Apr 29 (Sat) 2pm CDT at Ole Miss Oxford, Miss.

Apr 30 (Sun) 6pm CDT, SEC Network at Ole Miss Oxford, Miss.

May 1 (Mon) 6pm CDT, SEC Network at Ole Miss Oxford, Miss