Tide holds off late Kentucky rally to advance in WCWS
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – A near no-hitter for Alabama and a bases-loaded threat in the final inning from Kentucky provided some drama in Friday’s game at the Women’s College World Series, but a strikeout and a game-ending double play helped secure the thrilling 2-0 win and keep Alabama in the winner’s bracket.
“It was an awesome game tonight,” said Alabama Head Coach Patrick Murphy. “I thought it was a made-for-TV sporting event with the way it played out at the end. These were two really good teams with really good pitchers. I couldn’t be more pleased to stay in the winner’s bracket.”
Alabama (52-11) needed just two runs to earn the win, as Leona Lafaele provided all the run support with a two-run homer in the second inning. The Tide was kept hitless for the remainder of the game, but Jaclyn Traina (25-3) was just as stingy in the circle, taking a no-hitter until the bottom of the sixth inning where she gave up an infield single.
“We were really mixing up the pitches,” said Traina. “Molly [Fichtner] and I felt good with everything. Once they got through the lineup a few times, I knew they were going to put the ball in play. They’re a good team.”
Kentucky (50-18) was hitless until the bottom of the sixth when Sylver Samuel beat out a two-out infield single. The Wildcats threatened late, loading the bases with nobody out in the seventh, but they were ultimately unable to make the comeback. Kelsey Nunley (30-10) pitched a stellar outing in the circle, allowing just two earned runs off three hits but still suffered the tough complete-game loss.
Haylie McCleney roped the third pitch of the game into center field, looking to get something started early with a leadoff double. Kallie Case sacrificed her 60 feet closer with a bunt but a popup and groundout left her stranded at third as Alabama squandered the early scoring opportunity.
With two outs in the top of the second, Peyton Grantham poked a single up the middle and Lafaele followed that with a huge swing to give Alabama its first lead of the game, sending a towering home run into left-center to make it a 2-0 ballgame. The home run was her seventh of the season and her fourth with two outs in an inning.
Traina took her no-hit bid until the bottom of the sixth, when she gave up an infield single to Samuel with two outs in the inning. Samuel was caught stealing to end the half-inning as Alabama looked to add some insurance to its 2-0 lead.
Kentucky found some momentum in the bottom of the seventh, leading off the half-inning with three-straight singles to load the bases with nobody out. After a quick conference on the mound, Traina bounced back with a strikeout to put the first out on the board. Danae Hays was in perfect position to field a grounder in the next at-bat, as she made the flip over the Kaila Hunt covering second who then fired over to Lafaele at first to complete the 6-4-3 double play to end the game and give Alabama the 2-0 victory.
Alabama’s next game will be Sunday at 2:30 p.m. CT. The opponent has yet to be decided, as it could be one of three teams that play on Saturday, May 31. Oklahoma will play Louisiana-Lafayette in an elimination game at 1:30 p.m., and the winner of that game will play Oregon at 8:30 p.m. Alabama will face the winner of that second game.