The postseason brilliance of the Alabama Crimson Tide at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa continued on Thursday with a 3-0 victory over the Texas Longhorns that puts head coach Mike White’s team on the verge of elimination heading into Friday’s contest.
All of the elements that make the Alabama offense so dangerous were on display. In the third inning, Texas ace Miranda Elish hit the leadoff batter. Due to the liberal substitution rules in softball, the Crimson Tide used a pinch runner. With catcher Mary Iakopo worried about the baserunner, she tried a snap throw to first base, but Lauren Burke wasn’t there to cover, allowing a sacrifice bunt to further the pressure on Elish with the runner moving to third base.
Eventually, the Alabama offensive onslaught was too much, as Elish attempted to battle back from a 3-0 count, but left a pitch too far over the plate and at the right height for Merris Schroder. Despite hitting in the No. 9 slot for the Crimson Tide, Shroder has plenty of power and didn’t miss the mistake from Elish, hitting her 12th home run of the season to give the home team a 2-0 lead.
In the fourth, it was more of the same. Alabama star Bailey Hemphill stroked a leadoff double to allow another pinch runner. When the Crimson Tide put the pinch runner in motion with the hitter faking a sacrifice bunt, Iakopo made her second mistake. With the third baseman defending the possible bunt, the shortstop wasn’t able to beat the runner to third and Iakopo’s throw went into left field to score the game’s third run. Another bad decision.
As Elish and Iakopo weren’t able to raise their collective level of play to compete against one of the top softball programs in the country, the hitters failed, too. Through the first five innings, the Longhorns only managed two hits. In the fourth inning, two singles put runners on first and second with one out, but junior third baseman Shannon Rhoades struck out on a rise ball after battling back from an 0-2 count and junior left fielder Kaitlyn Washington flied out to left field on the first pitch of her at bat.
Against freshman sensation Montana Fouts, the Texas slap hitters weren’t able to generate offense and the power hitters didn’t come through with extra-base hits.
And now the Longhorns are in the same position as last weekend — needing to win multiple games in a row to advance. Except this time, the Crimson Tide will provide a much more formidable opponent.
First pitch on Friday is 8 p.m. Central on ESPN and 104.9 The Horn.