Alexis Osorio didn’t have her best stuff.
She walked six batters. She was behind in the count all night.
Which makes what the junior pitcher for the University of Alabama softball team did Friday night at Rhoads Stadium even more impressive.
Osorio held LSU hitless into the sixth inning as the 11th-ranked Crimson Tide defeated No. 8 LSU 3-0 in the series opener in front of a crowd of 2,345.
Alabama (34-6, 9-4 in SEC play) will face LSU (31-8, 7-3 SEC) again Saturday night at 8 o’clock in a game that will be televised on the SEC Network.
In a series featuring two of the top four teams in the league in earned run average, with four of the top 10 individual pitchers by ERA, a pitcher’s duel was expected. Osorio (17-4) struck out 11 batters and allowed just two hits. She threw a career-high 158 pitches, 85 of them strikes, as she scuffled and battled.
To Osorio, the strike zone seemed like a moving target. She kept adjusting.
“I had to get over the umpire switching the zone every single inning,” she said. “I just had to continue to push through it.”
Alabama got all it needed in the bottom of the first inning, when it roughed up LSU starter Allie Walljasper (11-2) for a three-run outburst. Outfielder Chandler Dare led off with a double to left field and advanced to third when Mari Cranek put down a perfect bunt, which allowed her to reach safely with a single. Senior third baseman Marisa Runyon ripped a double over first base to bring home a run, and with one out first baseman Peyton Grantham hit a laser shot to the gap in left-center for another double, driving in two more runs.
“Just see a good pitch and hit it,” Grantham said.
Taking advantage of the early opportunity proved necessary. Walljasper retired the last 10 UA batters she faced in order as Alabama went without a baserunnner after Sydney Booker was hit by a pitch in the third inning.
Osorio just kept grinding. She walked catcher Sahvanna Jaquish, the No. 3 batter in LSU’s lineup, four times, but struck out cleanup hitter Walljasper four times: all four with runners on base.
“I can’t wait to see the film just to see if they were good pitches or not,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said of the strike zone. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen somebody walk the three spot four times and strike out the four spot four times. That was the key. If the first kid’s going to walk you’d better get the second kid, and she did.
“She battles through a lot and she makes the pitches when she needs to.”
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.