Alabama Softball Recap: 2017 Season Ends in Gainesville
No. 16 Alabama saw their quest for a fourth consecutive trip to Oklahoma City fall short as No. 1 Florida took two of three games to punch their ticket to the Women’s College World Series.
The Crimson Tide won the first game of the Super Regional 3-0 Thursday but fell in game two 2-0 and 2-1 in Saturday’s series finale.
Alabama and Florida came into the weekend as two of the top pitching teams in college softball. Both teams lived up to the hype runs were at a premium throughout the three games in Gainesville.
Florida’s Kelly Barnhill and Delaine Gourley along with Alabama’s Alexis Osorio and Sydney Littlejohn kept their teams in contention with outstanding pitching. All four of the pitchers recorded at least one complete game effort with Osorio going the distance twice.
While Osorio struck out 16 batters in her two starts and blanked the Gators in Thursday’s Super Regional opening start, Florida right handed pitcher Kelly Barnhill took her game to another level in Saturday’s rubber match. The sophomore for the Gators stymied the Crimson Tide batting order by fanning 12 batters while allowing only one run on two hits with two free passes in her complete game win.
Florida’s Two-Out Run Scoring
Although both Alabama and Florida managed just four runs in three games during the Gainesville Super Regional, the Gators’ situational hitting proved to be a key difference maker in punching their ticket to Oklahoma City instead of the Crimson Tide.
Florida scored three of their four runs with two outs and each of the runs proved to be a huge difference maker over the course of the series.
The Gators scored their first two runs of the series in the third inning of Friday’s contest as sophomore left fielder Amanda Lorenz launched a two-run homer off Alabama’s Sydney Littlejohn. The round tripper provided both of Florida’s run in their first win of the series.
In Saturday’s Super Regional finale, Florida came through in the first inning from the plate thanks to an RBI single from junior Aleshia Ocasio and a two-out RBI on a hit by pitch from freshman Jordan Roberts.
Alabama scored three runs Thursday night via back-to-back errors from Kelly Barnhill. Elissa Brown’s two-out RBI single in the top of the second inning Sunday was the Crimson Tide’s only run-scoring hit of the Super Regional.
2017 Season Comes to a Close
For the first time since 2013, Alabama will not make the trip to Oklahoma City for the WCWS.
The Crimson Tide struggled at the plate for most of the season as they finished the year last in the SEC with a .273 team batting average.
While Alabama had to deal with the absence of one of the greatest players in program history in Hayley McCleney, they also saw a drop off in the middle of the order when it comes to the long ball.
The Crimson Tide hit 58 homers as a team last season but ended the season ninth in the conference with only 37 round trippers as a team.
Looking toward 2018, Alexis Osorio returns for what should be a highly anticipated senior season. Osorio closed out 2017 with 23-8 record along with a 1.21 ERA and 334 strikeouts.
During much of the season, freshmen Elissa Brown, Bailey Hemphill, Gabby Callaway and Claire Jenkins saw extensive action. The four freshman started a combined 172 games for the program.
Hemphill started every game as she led the team with nine home runs, 41 RBIs and 57 walks while finishing second on the team with a .309 batting average. Brown came on late in the season as she returned to the lead-off spot in the order and was McCleney’s successor in center field defensively.
The Eclectic, Alabama native hit .290 for the season and was second in the SEC with 31 steals. Brown also did not commit an error defensively this season.
Alabama finishes the 2017 season with a record of 46-18.
College Softball around Alabama
No. 7 Auburn’s season also ended Saturday as No. 10 Oklahoma swept the Tigers in two games. The Sooners shut down Auburn’s offense Friday afternoon thanks to Paige Parker’s complete game four-hitter. The junior from Independence, Missouri, struck out 14 batters while walking only three in the win.
In their 5-2 victory Saturday, Oklahoma outfielder Nicole Pendley set the tone for the game with her three run homer to right field in the bottom of the second inning. She added an RBI-single in the sixth inning to cap off a 2-3 day with four RBIs and a run scored.
The Sooners did not trail at any point during their Super Regional trip to Auburn. The Tigers finish the season with a record of 49-12.