Paced by a 12 strikeout performance from Kelly Barnhill, the Florida Gators ended Alabama’s 2017 season with a 2-1 win on a sunny but sticky afternoon in Gainesville. Tide star Alexis Osorio gave up only three hits, and the Tide closed the gap to a single run, but ultimately could not overcome a two run first inning from the sunflower wearing Gators.
To be fair, the odds were stacked against the Crimson Tide from the start. As the #16 seed Alabama was matched up in the regional round with the top-ranked, but inexplicably unseeded, Minnesota Golden Gophers. After two heroic 1-0 wins over the Gophers in Tuscaloosa, the Tide was then tasked with going on the road in the Super Regionals to face the favorite and #1 seed Florida Gators.
It wasn’t meant to be
The ending was emblematic of a season in which pitching was historically good, but the offense was not. Alexis Osorio and Sydney Littlejohn combined for more than 500 strike-outs, but the team batting average finished below .300.
Saturday’s finale demonstrates the futility the Tide faced all year at the plate. With everything on the line, the heart of the Bama batting order—Hemphill, Runyon, Dykes, Booker, and Grantham—was a combined 0-13. Simply put that isn’t worthy of playing for championships. Here’s hoping Murphy gets the hitting back on track for 2018 as Alabama will be a senior heavy team still led by All-American pitcher Alexis Osorio.
First Inning: damage done
The damage in the deciding game was all done in the bottom of the first. Amanda Lorenz—who had reached base in every at bat against Osorio—took a curveball into left field. Kayli Kvistad walked. With one away Aleshia Ocasio roped a 1-1 pitch into left center scoring Lorenz. What followed was self-inflicted. Osorio walked Janell Wheaton loading the bases. Chelsea Herndon popped up on the infield, but Osorio hit the Gators’ Jordan Roberts, walking in what would prove to be the game winning run. Florida took a 2-0 lead.
Second Inning: hope flickers
Alabama fought back immediately. Rachel Bobo, best known as a pinch runner, getting just her fourth start of the season in left field, hit a two out liner to right center that rolled to the fence allowing her to slide into third with a triple. Centerfielder Elissa Brown bounced a single to short where Sophia Reynoso, knowing Brown’s speed, misfired on a throw to first allowing Bobo to score. The inning ended but the Tide had cut the Gator’s lead to 2-1.
Sadly, that was that. The next thirteen batters in a row were set down by Barnhill. Alexis Osorio had eight strike outs on the day and with stellar defense plays, including a diving catch in left field by Rachel Bobo and a leaping grab of a fly ball by Sydney Booker, she held the score to 2-1.
Sixth inning: final at bat for Alabama seniors
Two of the three Alabama seniors took their last collegiate at bat in the sixth and came up empty. Chandler Dare and Marisa Runyon both flew out to right.
Seventh inning: last chance
For a New York second it seemed the Tide may find life. Reagan Dykes struck out on a wild pitch and made it to first. But then Booker struck out on three straight pitches. Grantham grounded to short and Reynoso caught Dykes at second. Bobo struck out swinging to end the game, the series, and the season.
Farewell to the Seniors
Three Alabama seniors played their final game in a Tide uniform. The aforementioned Chandler Dare and Marisa Runyon, along with pitcher Sydney Littlejohn helped Alabama make it to three consecutive Women’s College World Series. Congrats to them and thanks for the memories.
There is no question that Saturday in Gainesville the better team won. The Gators (55-8) head to Oklahoma City to take on Texas A&M. Alabama finishes the bittersweet 2017 season with a record of 46-18. To put things in perspective, the Crimson Tide made it to the Super Regionals where they took the #1 seed to three games. By almost any measure the team had a great run. It’s a sign of the program’s continued success that the team, coaching staff, and fans were left wanting more. Here’s hoping we get it in 2018!