Alexis Osorio has been waiting for weeks.
A few more hours didn’t matter.
The Alabama softball team’s senior ace pitcher patiently worked through problems that limited her in practice and limited her control.
So waiting through a three-hour postponement Sunday before pitching the 12th-seeded Crimson Tide to the Tuscaloosa Regional championship wasn’t asking too much. The right-hander from Riverside, California, carried a no-hitter into the final inning as Alabama cruised to a 6-0 victory over Oregon State at Rhoads Stadium.
The victory was Alabama’s 37th in a row in regional play, a streak that dates back 11 seasons. The Crimson Tide (36-18) advanced to the super regional round of the NCAA Tournament for the 14th year in a row.
“This was a team that really never gave up,” UA coach Patrick Murphy said. “They kept working their butts off: stay late, come early, have done everything we’ve asked them to do.
“They’re very, very gritty, and I couldn’t be more proud of this group.”
Alabama will visit fifth-seeded Washington for a best-of-three super regional. The Huskies defeated Minnesota in the final of the Seattle Regional.
Osorio (15-9) threw back-to-back one-hitters in the regional, handling the Beavers a day after holding Wisconsin to a single in a semifinal victory. She walked two batters, retiring 11 in a row after her first walk and seven more in a row between her second walk and the lone hit, a single by Hope Brandner with one out in the seventh inning.
Osorio shook off the hit and recorded her eighth and ninth strikeouts to end the game.
“Honestly I had no idea,” she said of the no-hitter. “I just look at the scoreboard to look at the count. Nobody in the dugout was really saying anything.”
The pitcher was finally cleared to fully practice — she had been limited to working on one pitch one day and a different pitch the next day — leading into the postseason.
“It’s not that big of a deal,” Osorio said. “I felt pretty good. It’s just a little bit of tightness in my forearm.
“I definitely felt a lot better this whole past week. We’ve been working on throwing the ball on the plate in the bullpen and I just felt like it all came together this weekend.”
Said Oregon State coach Laura Berg, “Alexis is an All-American for a reason. She’s very good and she was pounding the zone.”
The teams were warmed up and the national anthem had finished when lightning flashed in the area, causing a delay that lasted a full three hours before the game finally started. And when it did, Alabama was ready.
Center fielder Elissa Brown drew a leadoff walk in the first inning and moved to second on a single by second baseman Demi Turner. The runners advanced to second and third on a sacrifice bunt and first baseman Bailey Hemphill drove them in with a double to left field for a 2-0 lead.
“(Osorio) is an amazing pitcher, and anytime we can get her a good insurance run here or there we just have the utmost confidence that she’s going to get it done,” Hemphill said.
The Crimson Tide added two more runs in the fifth, with Brown and Turner hitting RBI singles. Outfielder Merris Schroder hit a two-run home run in the sixth.
Alabama has won eight of its last nine game and nine of its last 12, all against teams in the 64-team NCAA Tournament field.
“I think our confidence is just through the roof right now,” Hemphill said.
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-0224.