Under first-year head coach Mike White, Texas Longhorns softball will play its first road Super Regional against the Alabama Crimson Tide starting on Thursday evening at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, a stadium known for its intimidating home environment.
Following four straight wins to take the Austin Regional — with every single pitch in those games thrown by Oregon transfer Miranda Elish — Texas will attempt to continue that momentum against the No. 8 seed.
And don’t be surprised if Elish continues to play at a high level, as she’s been excellent during his NCAA Tournament career with a 12-1 record in 16 appearances with a 1.56 ERA and 95 strikeouts over 81 innings.
At the plate, junior third baseman Shannon Rhodes looks to continue her own postseason success, as she’s hitting .452 with four home runs and 19 RBIs in 23 games, including .467 with two home runs in the Austin Regional.
Overall, it’s a potent lineup that seemingly found its stride again last weekend and just set a school record for doubles (91). Moving into the top five in school history in hits, runs, triples, and RBIs is also within reach.
Overcoming Alabama won’t be an easy task, however, as the Crimson Tide are 55-7 this season after winning the Tuscaloosa Regional for a 15th straight time by quickly running off three straight victories. The Tide have only lost once at home in nine Super Regionals.
“We’re excited, obviously, to play against Alabama, one of the great teams throughout the history of the NCAA, especially in the last dozen years or so,” White said. “It’s a great opportunity to be out here, especially as a new coach of a new program coming up.”
On the mound, junior Sarah Cornell is the SEC Pitcher of the Year with a 2.39 ERA, but she’s not a strikeout pitcher and has allowed three or more earned runs in four of her last five appearances, including five runs in 3.2 innings against Arizona State last weekend.
Her battery mate, senior Reagan Dykes, makes things easier for the pitching staff by controlling opposing running games — Dykes recently set the school record with 46 runners caught stealing in her career.
The Crimson Tide combine speed and power and consistency at the plate and on the base paths, as Alabama ranks fifth nationally with 139 stolen bases and ninth in the country with 79 home runs. Junior first baseman Bailey Hemphill has reached base in 34 straight games and also leads the team with a .373 average and 23 home runs.
Texas has a 7-2 all-time record in Super Regional play and is looking for its fourth appearance in the Women’s College World Series and first since 2013, but has lost the last two games against Alabama and has never won in Tuscaloosa. First pitch is at 8 p.m. Central on ESPN and 104.9 The Horn.