Just over 14 hours after last night’s game ended, the No. 9 Texas Longhorns and the No. 8 Alabama Crimson Tide met back at the ballpark on Saturday afternoon to play for a spot in the Women’s College World Series.
Unfortunately, Mike White and his Longhorns squad came up just short of winning their sixth straight game facing elimination in this tournament and fell to the Crimson Tide, 8-5. Led by freshman starting pitcher Montana Fouts (7 IP, 5 Ks, 150 pitches) and their best hitter Bailey Hemphill (3-run HR), Alabama took the winner-take-all Game 3 to advance to the program’s 12th College World Series since 2000.
Multiple defensive mistakes made by Texas early in the game later turned out to be costly for their late-inning comeback efforts. If not for a costly error that turned a one-run inning into a five-run inning for Alabama, Texas could be going to Oklahoma City instead.
It was all positive news today for ace pitcher Miranda Elish regarding her injury. It was announced earlier that Elish only suffered an injury to her sinuses after being hospitalized from a scary play in last night’s game. She was back on the bench supporting the team today.
Lefty senior pitcher Brooke Bollinger got the start on the mound in place of Elish. She came into today with a 9-4 record and 2.30 ERA on the season.
The Horns couldn’t catch a break at the plate early on. Janae Jefferson was thrown out at home plate by Alabama CF Elissa Brown after trying to score on a single up-the-middle. However, after looking at the replay, it’d appeared that Jefferson clearly touched home plate before the tag was applied.
Bollinger struggled with her control and got in some trouble right away. In her first inning pitched, she walked three batters to load the bases but managed to escape the jam without giving up a run.
Lefty-hitter Maddie Morgan got things started for the Tide offensively with a lead-off double to open the bottom of the second. After misplaying a bunt and giving up an RBI single, which put Alabama ahead 1-0, Bollinger was pulled 1.1 innings into the game.
Last night’s winning pitcher, freshman Shealyn O’Leary, replaced her on the mound in relief. With strong support from the defense behind her, O’Leary kept the deficit at 1-0 heading into the third inning.
The top of Texas’ lineup made some noise again in the third inning, except this time they put a run on the board. Cleanup hitter Mary Iakopo delivered in the clutch by ripping an RBI single on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the inning. She drove in leadoff hitter Lauren Burke from third base to tie things up at 1.
Alabama regained the lead, 2-1, on a sacrifice fly in the bottom half of the inning. After an inexcusable error on a pop fly with two outs, the floodgates started to open for the Crimson Tide. Alabama took advantage of Texas’ mistake and extended a one-run inning into a five-run inning, thanks to back-to-back home runs from the heart of their order.
Before she could get through the third, O’Leary was replaced by Arianna Adams on the mound. Alabama led 6-1 after three innings.
But the fighting Longhorns weren’t done just yet.
While trailing 7-1 heading into the fifth inning, the top of the order was due up for the Longhorns. And just as they did earlier in the game and in last night’s game, they delivered for Texas when it was needed the most. Burke, Jefferson, and Iakopo all reached base to the start the inning and loaded the bases up for Shannon Rhodes. Rhodes delivered with an opposite-field grand slam to bring Texas within two runs.
Alabama was able to take advantage of another defensive miscue by Texas and pushed their lead to three runs in the bottom of the sixth.
It came down to the 2-3-4 hitters for the Longhorns with three outs left in their season. They were able to bring the tying run to the plate but Fouts closed out the game for Alabama on her 150th pitch of the game.
Regardless of the result, first-year head coach Mike White did a tremendous job with his team this season and deserves a ton of credit for the job he did. White brought along plenty of talent with him from Oregon including players like Elish, Iakopo, and Rhodes, and helped win the program’s first Regional since 2013. While they came up one win short of their ultimate goal of reaching the CWS, there’s a bright future ahead for Texas Softball.
Along with the Longhorns, the Big 12 was well-represented this weekend in the Super Regional round. No. 13 Oklahoma State knocked off the defending-champion Florida State Seminoles and No. 1 Oklahoma swept Northwestern in their series. The two Oklahoma programs will now compete for a national championship right in their home state (Oklahoma City) from May 30 - June 5 at the CWS.
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