There could be a fair argument about whether Patrick Murphy’s decision to shuffle the Alabama softball team’s batting order in the decisive game of the NCAA Tuscaloosa Super Regional was sparked by ingenuity or sheer necessity.

Whatever the cause, it ended up making Murphy look like a genius and sent his team to Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series.

Murphy moved sophomore KB Sides to the leadoff spot in the order and subsequently had Sides at the plate for some of the decisive moments in Alabama’s 8-5 win over Texas. That was especially in the case in the third inning when Sides blasted a two-out, three run home run —only her third of the season — which proved to be the key hit of the game for the Crimson Tide.

The move was precipitated in the previous two games when the Crimson Tide’s usual leadoff hitter, Elissa Brown, was called out four times for stepping out of the batter’s box. Brown remained in the lineup but hit in the No. 9 position.

“We had to do something,” Murphy said. “After the first game, Elissa worked for 45 minutes and didn’t step out of the box one time but we got into the (second game) and I think she was a little nervous and reverted back to what she’d always done. But you can’t have that in your offense. That’s an out where the defense doesn’t even have to make a play.

“KB was a leadoff hitter all through high school and in summer ball the year before she came to us, her summer coach told us that she was the best leadoff hitter in the entire league. So she was comfortable with it and we felt like she could handle it.”

Sides responded by going 2-for-3 and driving in four runs, including three on the home run off of Texas’ Shealyn O’Leary in the third inning. The inning appeared to be headed for a quiet ending but an outfield error and a walk to Alabama’s Caroline Hardy, pinch-hitting for Brown, gave Sides the opportunity.

“(The pitch) came in about shoulder high and I decided ‘why not?,’” Sides said. “Then when I was rounding the bases, I was like ‘What just happened?”

Bailey Hemphill followed with a solo home run and Alabama eventually built its lead to 7-1 before a Texas rally. But Montana Fouts finally closed the door as Alabama clinched the trip to Oklahoma City.

“It was so hot out there,” Sides said.” So give Montana credit for the way she fought through it.”

Reach Cecil Hurt at or 205-722-0225.