Scroll down for capsules and preview stories on all four teams playing in the Tuscaloosa Regional.

FINAL RESULTS

Tuscaloosa Regional
At Rhoads Stadium

Friday’s scores
Game 1: Minnesota 11, Louisiana Tech 3 (5 innings)
Game 2: Alabama 5, Albany 1

Saturday’s scores
Game 3: Alabama 1, Minnesota 0 (9 innings)
Game 4: Lousiana Tech 8, Albany 1

Sunday’s scores

Game 5: Minnesota 5, Louisiana Tech 2 (9 innings)

Game 6: Alabama 1, Minnesota 0 (championship)

DAY THREE RECAP

By Tommy Deas
Executive Sports Editor

The final day of the Tuscaloosa Regional delivered. There was an unexpectedly-close semifinal that was settled in extra innings, and a championship rematch that was every bit as tightly-contested as expected.
Alabama won its 34th straight regional game to claim its 13th straight regional championship and 15th overall, advancing to the super regional round again.
Minnesota, which came in with a No. 1 national ranking in the coaches poll, left disappointed as it season came to a futile end after a controversial bracket draw that saw the Big Ten champions unseeded and sent on the road.
The Crimson Tide held onto its distinction of being the only school to advance to the super regional round in every year since that format was adopted. UA will make its 13th straight super regional appearance against top-seeded Florida in Gainesville next weekend.

The Games
Score:
Alabama 1, Minnesota 0


What happened: Alabama closed out the championship by shutting out the Golden Gophers, who came in with one of the nation’s most potent attacks. Had Minnesota won, it would have forced a winner-take-all game on Monday, but the Crimson Tide wasn’t going to let it go that far.
Marisa Runyon doubled in Chandler Dare in the top of the first inning for the game’s only run.
Alabama pitchers Sydney Littlejohn and Alexis Osorio iced Minnesota’s bats. Littlejohn started and pitched to the minimum number of batters over the first three innings – the only hit nullified by a double play – and worked into the sixth. Osorio threw the final seven outs, allowing no hits or walks with a couple of strikeouts for the save.
The star: Littlejohn, a 6-foot, right-handed senior from Rusk, Texas, scattered five hits over 5 1/3 innings with four strikeouts and one walk.


Records: Alabama improved to 45-16; Minnesota finished 56-5.

Score: Minnesota 5, Louisiana Tech 2 (nine innings)
What happened: Louisiana Tech didn’t back down from a team that it had lost to via the mercy rule two days earlier. The Golden Gophers took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning and were one strike away from ending it when pinch hitter Taria Page hit a solo home run to take the contest into extra innings.
Minnesota finally broke through with a big rally in the top of the ninth to plate three runs for the win.
The star: Minnesota’s Kendyl Lindaman went 1-for-5, but her two-RBI double in the ninth inning was the one that sealed it for the Golden Gophers.
Records: Minnesota improved to 55-5; Louisiana Tech ended 38-24.

Game of the Day


As tense as Alabama’s championship victory over Minnesota was, the Golden Gophers’ nine-inning win over Louisiana Tech in the semifinal had more drama.
Minnesota took the lead in the top of the fourth and Louisiana Tech tied it on Ali Galaz’s solo homer in the bottom of the inning. Minnesota forged a 2-1 lead and was one strike away from winning in the bottom of the seventh before Louisiana Tech hit another solo shot to force extra innings.
Minnesota finally prevailed in the bottom of the ninth in the kind of contest that shows the shifts of fortunes in the NCAA Tournament.

Player of the Day


Minnesota ace Sara Groenewegen saw her career come to an end with a 1-0 defeat to Alabama in the championship round, but she left an impression.
The Canadian senior from White Rock, British Columbia, was pressed into duty in Minnesota’s semifinal elimination game against Louisiana Tech. She ended up throwing four innings, giving up one run on a solo homer that extended the game – her only hit allowed – but struck out eight batters with no walks. She also had an RBI single and scored against the Lady Techsters.
About half an hour later, she started against Alabama. She gave up a run in the first inning – the only run scored in the contest – and took the loss. She yielded five hits with seven strikeouts in no walks in seven innings.
She threw 155 pitches across the two appearances after tossing 125 the day before in an extra-inning loss to Alabama. Over two days, she allowed three runs in 20 innings, throwing 280 pitches.

Play of the Day


Rachel Bobo, utilized mostly as a pinch runner and occasionally as a pinch hitter, made her second career start for Alabama in the championship game against Minnesota. She played left field.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Gophers hit a foul ball to left. Bobo came charging in and made a full-layout, diving catch for out three to end the inning.

Biggest Surprise


Louisiana Tech called upon pinch hitter Taria Page in the bottom of the seventh inning against Minnesota, trailing by a run with two outs. She started out 0-2 and took the count full before blasting a solo home run off Gophers ace Sara Groenewegen to tie the contest and force extra innings.
It was just the seventh home run of the season given up by Groenewegen, and it sparked an ovation from Alabama fans arriving for the championship round.

Quotes of the Day
“People say we have the hardest to the Women’s College World Series, but how else would you want to get there? We beat an amazing Minnesota program. Why not take the hard route?”
– Alabama senior Marisa Runyon

“It’s a heck of an environment. This is a fun place to come play. I think the unfortunate thing is that our athletes didn’t get the chance to do that at their home. And it’s unfortunate that a group of people sitting in the room can make that decision. I think it’s just sad because I think they deserved better.”
– Minnesota coach Jessica Allister

 

DAY TWO RECAP

By Tommy Deas
Executive Sports Editor

The second day of the Tuscaloosa Regional had three games scheduled and a lot of ugly weather in the forecast. The University of Alabama and the weather won the day – the Crimson Tide defeated Washington in extra innings and the schedule was changed due to weather delays, shifting one scheduled Saturday contest to Sunday and creating the possibility that the regional might stretch to Monday, if necessary.
The Games
Score: Alabama 1, Minnesota 0 (9 innings)
What happened: Alabama’s Alexis Osorio and Minnesota’s Sara Groenewegen dueled in a pitcher’s showcase. They combined to give up just six hits with six walks and 21 strikeouts over nine innings.
The game was decided when Crimson Tide catcher Reagan Dykes drew a bases-loaded walk to drive in the only run in the bottom of the ninth.
The star: Osorio put on another exhibition of pitching excellence and mental toughness. She didn’t allow a hit until extra innings and yielded just two on the game. She struck out 11 batters against a lineup that hadn’t struck out more than seven times in a game all season. She scattered five walks and got herself out of a couple of situations. Of her 180 pitches, 114 were strikes.
Records: Alabama improved to 44-16; Minnesota fell to 55-4.

Score: Louisiana Tech 8, Albany 1
What happened: Louisiana Tech scored a run in the first and broke it open with five runs in the fifth in a game that eliminated the Great Danes.
Winning pitcher Presley Galloway scattered nine hits with eight strikeouts and one walk in 6 1/3 innings.
The star: Outfielder Morgan Turkoly came through for the Lady Techsters, going 3-for-3 with a two-run home run, a double and an RBI single. She also drew a walk.
Records: Louisiana Tech improved to 38-23; Albany finished 27-18.

Game of the Day
The Alabama-Minnesota matchup was perhaps the most anticipated contest in the nation – with Minnesota ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll and Alabama ranked 14th – on an NCAA Tournament Saturday that saw a full slate at 16 regional sites. It featured a pitching clash between two of the nation’s best, and lived up to its billing.

Player of the Day
Osorio stood above all with the kind of pitching performance that displayed her All-America talent to keep Minnesota’s hot bats in check. She struck out seven of the nine batters she faced at least once, and three of them multiple times.

Play of the Day
Alabama could have been in position to win by walk-off fashion in the bottom of the seventh if not for the defensive gem by Minnesota left fielder Sam Macken.
Chandler Dare hit a shot to left to lead off the inning and Macken laid out to make the catch for the out. The ball was dropping in front of her, and if Macken hadn’t come up with the catch – with no backup – Dare could have ended up at third base.

Biggest surprise
The weather that descended after the Alabama-Minnesota game wasn’t a shocker, but the way it jumbled the schedule was. The first game started before noon and the second didn’t end until nearly 10 o’clock at night.
The lightning and rain changed a three-game schedule into a two-game day, with the Minnesota-Louisiana Tech elimination game moved to Sunday.

Quote of the Day
“I hadn’t fielded a ground ball since April 1st, so I just needed to get some confidence under my belt, and I think it’s there now.”
– Alabama second baseman Demi Turner, making her first start in the field since sustaining a fractured eye socket six weeks earlier. She caught five balls off Minnesota bats and also had two put-outs in a sterling defensive performance.

DAY ONE RECAP

By Tommy Deas
Executive Sports Editor

The first day of the Tuscaloosa Regional saw two games – Alabama vs. Albany and Minnesota vs. Louisiana Tech – at Rhoads Stadium. Here’s a look at how it played out:

The Games
Score: Minnesota 11, Louisiana Tech 3 (five innings)


What happened: The Golden Gophers scored three runs in the first and five in the second, then got some help as the Lady Techsters committed three errors in the third to help Minnesota plate three more runs.
Outfielder Maddie Houlihan and second baseman MaKenna Partain both went 3-for-3, with each hitting a double and driving in four runs to lead Minnesota. Morgan Turkoly had a pair of RBI singles for Louisiana Tech.
Minnesota only used ace Sara Groenewegen for two innings. Amber Fiser (14-0) picked up the win in relief. Each team committed three errors.

The star: The unsung hero for Minnesota was leadoff hitter Sam Macken, who went 1-for-1 with two walks. She set the plate to spark the Gophers’ offense and scored three runs.
Records: Minnesota improved to 55-3; Louisiana Tech fell to 37-23.

Score: Alabama 5, Albany 1
What happened: Catcher Reagan Dykes and first baseman Bailey Hemphill each hit home runs to power the 14th-ranked Crimson Tide.
Sydney Littlejohn was the winner in relief after starter Madi Moore hit three batters. Littlejohn threw 4 2/3 innings, striking out seven while allowing one hit with no walks.
The star: Dykes not only hit a home run, she also picked two runners off base in a well-rounded performance.
Records: Alabama improved to 43-16; Albany fell to 27-17.


Game of the Day
Albany scored first and Alabama only led 2-1 going into the bottom of the fifth. Chandler Dare singled in a run and then Hemphill crushed a two-run shot over left field to break it open.

Player of the Day
Her impact didn’t really register on the scorecard, but the emotional boost of Demi Turner’s full return was the biggest moment of the day at Rhoads Stadium. It marked her full return after being hit in the face by a ball on April 1 and sustaining a fractured eye socket.
Turner entered at second base in the sixth inning and got one plate appearance – marking the first time she has played in the field and batted since the accident. She drew a four-pitch walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch before being doubled up on a fly ball to center, but got a standing ovation from the crowd the minute she stepped on the field.

Play of the day
Alabama catcher Regan Dykes turned a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play in the top of the fourth inning. Albany’s Chelsea Henige was hit by a pitch to lead off. UA pitcher Sydney Littlejohn struck out shortstop Kelly Spear, and Dykes fired to first baseman Bailey Hemphill to catch Henige off base for the second out.

Biggest surprise
Minnesota threw ace Sara Groenewegen against Louisiana Tech. The senior right-hander came in with a 30-2 record and 0.59 earned-run average.
Even though Groenewegen was relieved after two innings with Minnesota building a big, early lead, it was a signal that either Minnesota coach Jessica Allister was taking no chances or that she plans to ride her All-American most of the way at the Tuscaloosa Regional.

Quote of the day
“I can’t answer exactly what went wrong, but boy it sure did. I don’t know if it was nerves or the size of the stage that was the issue, but pitching did not come through for us like we hoped.”
– Louisiana Tech coach Mark Montgomery

Demi Turner cleared to bat and field again

By Tommy Deas
Executive Sports Editor

The University of Alabama softball team got just what the doctor ordered this week.

Second baseman Demi Turner, who hasn’t batted or played in the field since sustaining a fractured eye socket when hit by a ball thrown by a teammate on April 1, has been cleared to return. She is available for the Tuscaloosa Regional, where UA will play Albany in its opening game on Friday at 4 p.m. in a game that will be televised on the SEC Network.

Turner has played as a pinch runner recently, but now she can return to a full-time role when head coach Patrick Murphy is ready to put her in the lineup.

“I don’t think she’d start but she will see action,” Murphy said. “I’m going to try to get her in there, just to kind of get the butterflies out and see what she does.”

The junior from Huntsville, Texas, carries a team-best .387 batting average and on Thursday was named first-team all-region by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association along with pitcher Alexis Osorio.

Murphy asked Turner if she wants to wear a mask in the field. She said no.

“She said if happens it happens, if she gets hit again,” Murphy. “She had a partner every day with our daily drills, did fine with those. Sprinted out to second base, took ground balls every day. Nothing came close to her face, thank goodness.

“I just think she’s one tough kid.”

Turner has also taken live batting practice this week for the first time since the injury.

“The first round wasn’t so good,” Murphy said. “The second round, she hit the top of the fence and she’s smiling like crazy.”

Turner’s teammates got a boost from having her back.

“I was almost in tears when I found out she was cleared,” senior Marisa Runyon said. “She came from the doctor and just said, ‘We’re golden,’ and we all kind of surrounded her. We were so excited because she’s a spark and she brings a fire.”

Minnesota ready to focus on softball, not snub

By Molly Catherine Walsh
Special to The Tuscaloosa News

It’s no secret that the Minnesota softball team has been the topic of conversation on social media since it received what was arguably the biggest snub in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

The Golden Gophers, ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in the two major Top 25 polls wth a 54-3 record and the Big Ten regular-season and Tournament titles, were shocked to see that they were not seeded among the top 16 schools when the bracket was revealed.

So instead of hosting a regional as expected, Minnesota has been shipped to the Tuscaloosa Regional, where it will play Louisiana Tech in an opening-round game Friday at Rhoads Stadium.

Minnesota coach Jessica Allister doesn’t know exactly how that happened, and more importantly doesn’t care.

“It’s not realistic to hear something like that and bounce back right away, that’s not real,” Allister said Thursday. “We were surprised and I’ve been impressed with the leadership I’ve seen from this team. But how many more times are we going to talk about this? I’d rather focus on the future.”

Minnesota quickly became the team to get behind for fans who didn’t already have a dog in this race. The numbers speak for themselves: Statistically the Gophers have  a team batting average of .349 in addition to 65 home runs and 393 RBIs.

Infielder Sam Macken is ready for her team’s chance to prove itself the only way it can.

“No one really believes in us except for us,” Macken said. “We’re a team that plays with grit and that’s all I have to say about that.”

La. Tech softball coach good friends with UA’s Goff

By Molly Catherine Walsh
Special to The Tuscaloosa News

Louisiana Tech softball coach Mark Montgomery was half of the two-part team that Alabama baseball head coach Greg Goff called The Dyanmic Duo. The two coached at the same school before Goff left for UA after last season.

Goff is out of town for the weekend with his team for a three-game series at Vanderbilt to end the season, but he texted Montgomery and told him he wanted to buy him dinner on Sunday.

“Him and I were really close,” Goff said. “Baseball and softball coaches are really close with our seasons and things and what we do. I texted him and told him I was sorry I wasn’t going to be here before the tournament, but I’m excited for those guys to get here and get a chance to play for a regional. It’s exciting.”

Montgomery described Goff as a dear friend and a tremendous coach. Goff was the head coach of the Louisiana Tech baseball team from 2014-16.

“He built our program,” Montgomery said. “We’re still thriving and going strong, so he left it in great shape. I know he’ll do a great job at Alabama.”

Although Louisiana Tech has the Alabama baseball team behind it, the Lady Techsters are yet to feel like they truly have the spotlight they deserve. Louisiana Tech has had an impressive season with a 37-22 record and the Conference USA tournament title. Montgomery is excited to be invited to Alabama for the Tuscaloosa Regional, but it still didn’t feel quite right after it was announced in the media.

Minnesota, ranked No 1 and No. 3 in the two major national polls, didn’t get a top-16 seed and the chance to host a regional. It was instead sent to Alabama, resulting in an uproar that has overshadowed Louisiana Tech’s bid.

“For a lot of programs, seeing their name of the television and hearing their name mentioned goes a long way,” Montgomery said. “Unfortunately we were denied that because of the controversy with the other teams so it was a little disappointing to not even be mentioned in the statement.

“To see our name up on the screen and have no one even mention us is disheartening,” Montgomery said. “The NCAA tells us where to go and who to play and we’re going to do our best to show up and prove that we belong here and we deserve to play at a regional.”

Louisiana Tech will play Minnesota (54-3) on Friday at Rhoads Stadium at 1:30pm.

Albany relishes chance to play in big-time atmosphere

By Tommy Deas
Executive Sports Editor

The Albany Great Danes aren’t used to playing in big stadiums with big crowds against teams with big reputations.

They get their chance Friday at the Tuscaloosa Regional, where they’ll play the Alabama Crimson Tide at Rhoads Stadium. The America East Conference champions relish the opportunity.

“Some of the teams in our conference have stadiums, but it’s never a stadium as big as this,” catcher Elizabeth Snow said. “We don’t have crowds as loud and rambunctious as here, that’s probably one of the biggest differences, but just the level of play we haven’t been challenged that way.

“It’s a chance to test ourselves against really good competition. We earned our spot here. We worked hard to get here. I want to keep going with that.”

That doesn’t mean the Great Danes aren’t up for the opportunity.

“It’s exciting for us,” outfielder Donna Conrad said “To not be intimidated is another thing. We’re just going to go out there and just enjoy the atmosphere. I think it’s a really cool experience.”

This should be a better experience for head coach Chris Cannata than her last trip to Tuscaloosa. She brought Albany down for a February tournament in 2004 and ended up in a dugout mishap.

“We took a team down here and played in a tournament and it was freezing,” she said, “and they had those big propane heaters – like constructions heaters – in the dugout, which I’m sure they’ve upgraded since 2004, and I was little too close to the heater. My long underwear and my pants kind of went up in flames.”

There won’t be any need for dugout heaters with temperatures expected to reach into the 90s his weekend, so Albany won’t have to worry about that.

Cannata has taken the Great Danes to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time. Albany made a regional final in 2007. She has learned some lessons.

“Just not to get overwhelmed by the moment,” she said. “The pressure certainly shifts to the teams that are supposed to win. Nobody in the park, I think, is thinking we’re going to come out here and win (Friday). … Just stay relaxed and compete the way we’ve competed all season.”

A look at the teams

Capsules by Molly Catherine Walsh

Alabama
Location: Tuscaloosa
Enrollment: 37,665
Nickname: Crimson Tide
Record: 42-16
Ranking: 14/15
Bid: At-large
National seed: No. 16
Tuscaloosa Regional seed: No. 1
Head coach: Patrick Murphy
Team batting average: .285
Home runs: 35
RBIs: 232
Steals: 92
Earned run average: 1.58
Strikeouts: 189
Walks: 237
Top hitters: Demi Turner (.387, 1 HR, 15 RBI), Bailey Hemphill (.324, 8 HR, 39 RBI), Merris Schroder (.319, 4 HR, 24 RBI), Elissa Brown (.317, 0 HR, 1 RBI)
Top pitchers: Alexis Osorio (21-7, 1.29 ERA, 305 SO, 93 BB), Sydney Littlejohn (15-8, 1.36 ERA, 172 SO, 32 BB)

Minnesota
Location: Minneapolis
Enrollment: 51,147
Nickname: Golden Gophers
Record: 54-3
Ranking: No. 1/3
Bid: Automatic (Big Ten tournament champions)
National seed: Unseeded
Tuscaloosa Regional seed: No. 2
Head coach: Jessica Allister
Team batting average: .349
Home runs: 65
RBIs: 393
Steals: 42
Earned run average: 1.21
Strikeouts: 428
Walks: 97
Top hitters: Kendyl Lindaman (.438, 60 H, 74 RBI), Maddie Houlihan (.401, 8 H, 39 RBI), Sydney Dwyer (.391, 12 HR, 76 RBI), MaKenna Partain (.379, 2 HR, 35 RBI)
Top pitchers: Sara Groenewegen (30-2, 0.59 ERA, 280 SO, 28 BB), Carlie Brandt (6-0, 0.84 ERA, 19 SO, 5 BB)

Louisiana Tech
Location: Ruston, Louisiana
Enrollment: 12,414
Nickname: Lady Techsters
Record: 34-22
Ranking: 80
Bid: Automatic (Conference-USA tournament champions)
National seed: Unseeded
Tuscaloosa Regional seed: No. 3
Head coach: Mark Montgomery
Team batting average: .291
Home runs: 25
RBIs: 265
Steals: 86
Earned run average: 2.50
Strikeouts: 241
Walks: 94
Top hitters: Morgan Turkoly (.390, 2 HR, 35 RBI), Ali Galaz (.338, 3 HR, 26 RBI), Taria Page (.337, 4 HR, 39 RBI), Jazlyn Crowder (.293, 6 HR, 27 RBI)
Top pitchers: Krystal De La Cruz (11-3, 2.00 ERA, 57 SO, 28 BB), Allen Bailey (7-2, 2.16 ERA, 31 SO, 19 BB)

Albany
Location: Albany, New York
Enrollment: 17,280
Nickname: Great Danes
Record: 27-16
Ranking: 190
Bid: Automatic (America East tournament champions)
National seed: Unseeded
Tuscaloosa Regional seed: No. 4
Head coach: Chris Cannata
Team batting average: .296
Home runs: 35
RBIs: 211
Steals: 58
Earned run average: 3.60
Strikeouts: 192
Walks: 126
Top hitters: Elizabeth Snow (.439, 13 HR, 46 RBI), Chelsea Henige (.336, 3 HR, 34 RBI), Donna Conrad (.320, 4 HR, 31 RBI), Aliyah Wade (.296, 0 HR, 6 RBI)
Top pitchers: Celeste Verdolivo (8-8, 3.29 ERA, 82 SO, 29 BB), Devin Durando (8-3, 3.33 ERA, 55 SO, 51 BB)

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