KNOXVILLE, Tennessee – Elephants never forget. Neither does University of Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy.
The college softball world might want to turn the page back a couple of years for a reminder.
Alexis Osorio was a freshman pitcher two years ago when she dueled a potent Oklahoma lineup for three games over two days at a super regional.
Osorio came out on top, and Alabama went to the Women’s College World Series.
Now a junior, the Crimson Tide’s ace from Riverside, California, put on a similar performance on Thursday in a 2-1, 10-inning victory over Texas A&M at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium in the quarterfinal round of the SEC Tournament. She struck out 15 batters and allowed just two hits.
“You’ve seen it before,” Murphy said. “This was on a big stage.”
Murphy hopes you see it again.
Osorio will be available Saturday when Alabama (42-15) plays Ole Miss (38-18) the SEC semifinal at 10 a.m. CT. The winner will again in the championship game at 7 p.m.
Beyond that, Alabama will need Osorio to come up big in the NCAA Tournament. She has done it before as a key element in Alabama runs to Oklahoma City in her first two seasons.
The biggest moment came in her rookie year in that three-game face-off with an Oklahoma Sooners lineup that included two of the top five home runs hitters in college softball history: Lauren Chamberlain and Shelby Pendley finished with a combined 179 in their careers.
Chamberlain hit three in the series, but Osorio battled. She held Oklahoma to nine hits with 17 strikeouts over 20 1/3 innings in a span of a little over 24 hours.
Alabama is in better position pitching-wise with the emergence of Sydney Littlejohn over the last two seasons. She is 15-7 with a 1.23 ERA and was slated to start against Ole Miss before Friday’s action was rained out.
The Crimson Tide may have solidified its position as a prospective regional host with its run in the SEC Tournament, but wants more. UA is trying to make four straight trips to the World Series for the first time in school history.
To do so, it will need pitching. It will need Osorio.
“It starts with her,” Murphy said.
Osorio has a 1.29 earned run average with an SEC-leading 305 strikeouts in 179 1/3 innings. Her average of 11.9 strikeouts per seven innings ranks fifth nationally. Opponents have batted just .119 against her, but she has a 21-7 record that is more indicative of a lack of run support than it is any shortcoming in her performance.
In the final game of the regular season, a victory over Auburn, and in two SEC Tournament wins, Alabama has shown signs of an offensive awakening. Key hits that didn’t occur earlier have begun to happen at just the right time.
“I think our hitters have made the adjustments over the last few games that we’ve played,” Osorio said. “I have total confidence in hitting and defense, and I know things are going to start going our way.”
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-0224.