It’s been an odd regional in Tuscaloosa, so far: television delays, rain and lightning strikes, and then a series of largely noncompetitive games greeted Alabama fans in Rhoads Stadium this weekend. Only one game in the entire regional has been decided by fewer than five runs.
And it hasn’t matter a bit to the Crimson Tide or its faithful fans.
No. 19 Alabama came into its host regional sporting the nation’s 12th-best RPI, and just at .500 in conference play. Despite the sometimes up-and-down season and the spotty record (for Alabama,) the Crimson Tide were much improved down the stretch, coming into postseason play on bit of a hot streak. And, it turns out, that conference record has becomes more impressive as the postseason continues: All 13 SEC teams made NCAA regionals, and nine teams actually hosted their own regional. As of this writing, 12 teams are still alive going into Sunday play. The loser? Auburn, an a FSU walk-off, inside-the-park home-run (LOL.)
Alabama, hosting its 14th straight regional, picked up where it left off in the SEC tournament: the bats have been active, and the pitching has been dominant.
Saturday’s 36th straight regional home win — a span that has lasted 11 full seasons — was absolutely vintage Tide:
Senior ace Alexis Osorio struck out seven batters, allowing one run one on one hit, the first earned run she had allowed in 44 1/3 career innings of regional play. It was evidence that the two-time All-American is coming around after laboring with a forearm injury that has limited her in practice and games all season.
“Osorio was back to normal a little bit, or closer to normal,” said Patrick Murphy, UA’s head coach for the entirety of the streak. “That’s the old Osorio that we’re used to in regional play.”
By now, these heroics from Osorio are expected. What was not expected has been the scoring diversity that ‘Bama has shown. Freshman Bailey Hemphill had a two-run shot in the third, then Sr. Catcher Reagan Dykes stole the show. She had a three-run blast that blew open the fifth inning, and ended two innings with outstanding defensive plays.
Alabama’s 9-1 run-rule dominance against Wisconsin came on the heels of Friday’s small-ball 8-0 victory over MTSU. The Tide only stranded two baserunners against the Blue Raiders, and capitalized all night with timely base hits, particularly by Hemphill. And that was all Osorio would need.
Finally healthy, and seeing the ball better than at any time this season, Alabama squares off against the Oregon State Beavers at 1:30 on Sunday. The Beavers emerged from the loser’s bracket, so one win puts ‘Bama in a Super Regional. A final game, if necessary, will be at 4:00 central.
Best of luck and Roll Tide