That 2011-2012 athletic year was a special one for Alabama Crimson Tide fans, in so many ways. On the heels of one of the most devastating storm systems to ever hit the state, Tuscaloosans rallied around to support their hometown school even as the students, coaches, and players found an extra level of resolve to win — to give the region something to be proud of: sports as more than sports.
And, over the next 15 months, Alabama athletics gave Tide fans hope in abundance. In began just two months later, when the Gymnastics team won their 5th national title. Later that year, Alabama would trot out its historically good defense that paved the way for a football national title — a feat it would replicate 12 months later against hated Notre Dame. As the calendar eased into 2012, in Anthony Grant’s best season, Alabama basketball would make the NCAA tournament. Gymnastics would again take top honors and win its 6th national title on the floor.
Finally, as spring gave way to summer, the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide softball team traveled to Stillwater in the Women’s College World Series final where it would face the No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners — a school that has Alabama has developed a fierce intersectional rivalry with in nearly every sport over the last decade.
The Sooners rang up Jackie Traina early, taking a 3-0 lead. But, after a three-hour rain delay, the Tide got a run on the board, and were trailing 3-1 going into the bottom of the fourth. The skies began to threaten again, though what fell from the clouds was barely more than a soft drizzle.
Alabama and Patrick Murphy were willing and more than prepared to play in the pitter-patter. But, Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso insisted that the conditions were simply too much for the Sooners and their national player of the year, pitcher/clean-up batter Keilani Ricketts. As the teams retreated into the dugout, an indignant ‘Bama squad left the dugout to fire up the crowd and mock the Sooners along the way. “We’re ready to play.”
And the more the Crimson Tide cheered, the more the fans fed into the energy, the more dejected the Sooners looked — huddling in a dugout from light drizzle as they were. The body languages of both teams changed, and it became a matter of when Alabama would take the lead, not if.
After a few minutes of delay, the Tide would go on to score three more runs that inning, all with two outs, and take its first lead of the night. Alabama plated another run in the 5th — again with two outs — and took a 5-3 lead into the top of the seventh. Following a solo shot by the Sooners, in a one-run game with two outs, Bama all-star pitcher Jackie Traina met Sooners’ all-star Keilani Ricketts:
The rest, they say, is history. Alabama would win its first national title in softball, the first for any program in the SEC. And perhaps Patty Gasso also learned a valuable lesson that day: what’s in your head and heart is as important as what’s on the field.
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