Softball Recap: #4 Alabama Awaits Selection Sunday
In the regular season, Alabama was one of the steadiest teams in the SEC taking seven of eight series in conference play. However, the consistency in the regular season did not translate to SEC Tournament play in Starkville, Mississippi.
The Crimson Tide slipped by Mississippi State 7-5 Wednesday night while falling to Auburn 6-4 Friday afternoon.
Alabama’s pitching carried them through much of the season but struggled mightily in the SEC Tournament. Alexis Osorio labored through a complete game effort Wednesday night against Mississippi State as she surrendered five runs on seven hits over the course of a 153 pitch outing.
Two days later against Auburn, Sydney Littlejohn had one of her worst starts of the season. The Tigers knocked her out of the game in the third inning as they scored all six of their runs off the junior pitcher.
In one of the biggest bright spots of the SEC Tournament for Alabama, freshman Madi Moore gave the Crimson Tide a glimmer of hope against the Tigers with 3.1 shutout innings out of the bullpen.
While the Crimson Tide overcame shaky pitching against Mississippi State with several clutch hits, the big play never materialized offensively against Auburn. Alabama had opportunities in the sixth and seventh innings with the tying run at the plate but scored one run in their last two at bats.
Auburn’s win over Alabama Friday afternoon marks the second straight season that the Tigers have dispatched the Tide en route to an SEC Tournament title. In the bigger picture, the last two SEC Tournament titles for Auburn is an indicator that they are rapidly catching up with Alabama relative to being at the top of the SEC and nationally in college softball
Besides Auburn’s big weekend, Samford, Jacksonville State and Alabama State punched their tickets to the NCAA Tournament by winning the SoCon Tournament, OVC Tournament and SWAC Tournament respectively. For Samford and Alabama State, their conference tournament championships mark their inaugural appearances in the field of 64.
Samford rolled through the SoCon Tournament in dramatic fashion. Former Shelton State pitcher Mollie Hanson tossed a no-hitter in their opening game against UNCG while coming up one hit away from a second no-hitter against Mercer the following day. The Bulldogs battled Furman to extra innings in the championship game before Tuscaloosa native Callie Brister scored the title-winning run in the bottom of the eighth on a two-out single to left from teammate Abbie Miranda.
Jacksonville State capped an historic run through the OVC by capturing a conference tournament title in Oxford, Alabama. The Gamecocks held off SIUE on championship Saturday to secure the automatic bid. SIUE gave Jacksonville State their first loss to an OVC team this season with a 2-1 win but the Gamecocks rebounded with a solid 6-1 victory in the deciding game on Saturday.
Alabama State roared through the SWAC Tournament field as the Hornets scored 40 runs in winning all four games over the weekend. The Hornets played among their best games of the season in an 18-8 championship game win over SWAC regular season champion Texas Southern. Alabama State belted five home runs in the game including two round trippers from tournament MVP Kendall Core.
Selection Sunday should be fruitful to the state of Alabama as at least five in-state teams will be represented in the 2016 NCAA Tournament field. The full 64-team NCAA Tournament field will be revealed Sunday night at 9 PM on ESPNU.
College Softball Notes Around Alabama:
-UAB saw their season come to an end Saturday in a 6-0 loss in the Conference USA Championship Game to No. 22 FAU. Junior Cara Goodwin started all four tournament games from the Blazers as she pitched two complete game wins against Southern Miss while falling twice to FAU.
-South Alabama and Troy had disappointing runs through the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Mobile. Both teams went 1-2 in tournament play with Georgia State knocking both teams out of the tournament. Troy’s season ends at 31-25 while South Alabama is on the NCAA Tournament bubble and will see if they will make their fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
-North Alabama swept two games from Rollins College Wednesday in the Division II South Super Regional to clinch an appearance in the NCAA Division II Women’s College World Series in Denver, Colorado. The Lions play Southern Arkansas Tuesday to open WCWS play.
-Birmingham Southern received an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament but lost two of three games in the NCAA regional round including a 6-5 defeat to Berry to end the season.