Alabama Softball Advances to NCAA Regional Championship Game
Alabama carried the momentum from its big win on Friday into Saturday’s matchup, defeating USC Upstate 7-1 to earn a spot in Sunday’s Regional Championship.
Alabama (47-11) took an early lead and did not relent for the rest of the game, as a potent offense combined with a stellar outing by Jaclyn Traina (21-3) in the circle to limit USC Upstate (46-8) to just one run off four hits. Traina threw a complete-game in the circle with six strikeouts and no walks and even helped her own cause at the plate, blasting a three-run homer in the first inning. After a 4-4 day yesterday, Jadyn Spencer remains perfect in NCAA Tournament play as she had another 4-4 day today, including a solo homer in the third inning. Haylie McCleney went 3-4 out of the leadoff spot with a pair of runs scored while Molly Fichtner, Leona Lafaele and Marisa Runyon each earned multi-hit games as well.
Spartan starter Lexi Shubert (18-2) took the loss in the circle, throwing the opening 2.0 innings before exiting for reliever Anna Miller, though Shubert eventually re-entered for the final 2.2 innings of the game. A-Sun Player of the Year Shellie Robinson scored the lone run of the game for USC Upstate with a solo homer leading off the bottom of the first.
Kaila Hunt got things started for Alabama in the opening inning, driving in McCleney from third with an RBI single up the middle. Spencer followed that with a single and Traina cleared the bases with a three-run homer off the scoreboard, pushing the Tide’s lead to 4-0 with just one out in the first. Alabama would get one more on base in the inning but she would ultimately be left stranded as the Tide couldn’t add to its four-run lead.
USC Upstate erased the shutout right away in the bottom of the first as Robinson hit a leadoff home run down the left-field line to make it 4-1. That was all the damage the Spartans would do in the first inning as Alabama got out of the inning with a three-run lead.
Spencer’s second hit of the game was a big one, as she belted a line-drive homer off the camera deck in center field to give Alabama a 5-1 lead in the third inning. With the bases loaded later in the inning, McCleney hit a hard line-drive back at the pitcher who couldn’t make a play, as everyone moved up a base to put the Tide up 6-1.
Alabama could not add to its lead in the fifth or sixth innings, stranding a combined six runners on base as the Tide could not secure a run-rule lead over USC Upstate. With runners at the corners in the top of the seventh, an errant throw down to third from the catcher went into left field, allowing McCleney to score on the error and make it 7-1. USC Upstate would grab a leadoff double in the bottom of the seventh, breaking up Traina’s streak of 14-straight retired batters. A groundout advance the runner to third and a great double play by Chandler Dare ended the game as she caught the ball running in foul territory and made a laser throw to home to catch the runner trying to score from third.
Alabama will advance to the Regional Championship game tomorrow at 1 p.m. CT, facing the winner of tonight’s 6 p.m. matchup between the Spartans and either South Alabama or SIUE.