It wasn’t easy, but yesterday Alabama advanced to the final of its host regional after a thrilling 1-0, nine-inning battle between the Tide’s Alexis Osorio and Minnesota’s Sara Groenenwegen. The game’s hero was Meagan Dykes, who got up early with a 2-0 count and then drew a bases-loaded walk on a questionable strike. It wasn’t a game for either team’s offense: the two combined for just six hits, no errors
Osorio had the two-hit, complete game win, cranking out an unreal 180 pitches (114 strikes) versus the 35 batters she faced. The Gophers’ Groenewegen also had complete game with a heavy workload, but nowhere near the mileage of her counterpart — she faced 32 batters, dispatching them in a far tidier 125 pitches (89 strikes.)
The win snapped Minnesota’s 26-game winning streak. Further, Alabama neutralized the stellar Kendyl Lindaman, fanning her twice. She led the “Big Ten in home runs (20), slugging percentage (.942), walks (60), on-base percentage (.608) and batting average (.438). Nationally she ranks third in on base percentage and slugging percentage and sixth in RBIs and home runs.” Nice.
Fatigue will likely come into play today, but Alabama’s Sydney Littlejohn was at times the far steadier performer this season, and will likely draw a 1:30 start. Littlejohn doesn’t have Osorio’s power, and allows more base runner, but she does have a lot of movement and is more of a ground-out pitcher. The Tide will need to bring their best fielding should see the circle. Littlejohn has a 1.33 ERA, just behind Osorio’s 1.23, despite notching just 174 strikeouts to Osorio’s 316.
Starting Littlejohn gives Murphy several strategic options though, chiefly saving the strikeout ace for Monday’s rubber match if necessary. And, given Murphy’s penchant for riding a hot arm, don’t be surprised to see Osorio this afternoon if Littlejohn is getting touched up or Alabama needs to slam the door and close out the Gophers.
Murphy could also duct tape Alexis’ arm up and send her out — you never know.
Minnesota can counter with Groenenwegen in today’s game, but the Gophers have another freshman phenom in Amber Fiser, should the wish to save her. Fiser has appeared in 22 games and brings a 1.69 era with her equally-impressive 14-0 record. She isn’t as powerful or as accurate as Groenewegen. Like littlejohn, she is more of a location pitcher. She has notched 78 Ks in 82 innings, but has allowed 33 walks and an opponent batting average of .209.
I know this is very presumptuous to any lurking Louisiana Tech fans. Tech could win. But, Minnesota is just too good, and past performance is the best indicator of future action. Still, if the improbable happens, I’ll update this with a closer look at the Bulldogs. For now, the safer assumption that is the Tide and Gophers will meet at least twice, and possibly three times.
Time, Television, Streaming
Owing to inclement weather, Minnesota was not able to play its elimination-round game last night.
Action begins today at 1:30 Central with Minnesota facing Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs eliminated Albany in the late game, and face the Gophers who easily handled them in an 11-3 run-ruling.
The Tide faces that winner at approximately 4:00 Central. If Alabama should lose, a second game, originally scheduled for this evening, will be played on Monday at 6:00 Central.
Television listings haven’t been sorted out yet, but, based upon the blocked out schedule, it appears as though the 1:30 game will likely be on either ESPN or SEC Network. The 4:00 Final will probably appear on either ESPNU or the SECNetwork. All games will be available for streaming on WatchESPN.
We’ll update this as we know something concrete from the Mouse.
Tuscaloosa Regional (No. 16 Alabama)
FINAL: Alabama 1, Minnesota 0 (9 innings) | Box score | Alabama to regional final
FINAL: Louisiana Tech 8, Albany 1 | Box score | Albany eliminated
Sunday: Minnesota vs. Louisiana Tech | 2:30 p.m. | Winner to regional final
Regional Final: Alabama vs. Minnesota-Louisiana Tech winner | 5 p.m. | If Minn.-LT win, second game follows
Hope for the best. Roll Tide