By Adam Jude
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
SEATTLE — In the end, Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy at least felt like he got a glimpse of the future.
Freshman left-hander Madison Preston gave Alabama some life, and some hope, in the fourth inning Saturday when she came on in relief with the bases loaded and struck out Taylor Van Zee, Washington’s best hitter, on three pitches. One pitch later, Preston escaped the jam by inducing a groundout, giving the Crimson Tide some much-needed momentum in the Seattle Super Regional.
It didn’t last.
For the second game in a row, Alabama’s offense again struggled to string together quality at-bats as Washington ace Taran Alvelo pitched a three-hit shutout to send the No. 5-seeded Huskies to the Women’s College World Series with a 6-0 victory in the best-of-three series Saturday evening.
“Obviously, we wanted a different outcome,” Murphy said.
Alabama (36-20) had built a 2-0 lead in the second inning of Game 1 on Friday night (eventually losing 3-2), but the Crimson Tide was shut out over the next 14 innings. Alabama combined to hit just .115 (6 for 52) in the super regional.
On Saturday, the Huskies built a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, powered by a leadoff homer from Van Zee, and the Crimson Tide never mustered much of a rally.
Murphy was pleased the pitching performances he got from Alexis Osorio on Friday and from Courtney Gettins and Preston on Saturday. They did enough. The offense, obviously, did not.
“We’ve got to support them,” Murphy said. “We’ve got to score some runs ourselves.”
Osorio, a senior from Riverside, California, was not available Saturday after throwing 170 pitches in eight-plus innings on Friday night.
Gettins, a junior from New Zealand, got the start Saturday and allowed three runs in 3 1/3 innings. She exited with the bases loaded in the fourth, when Murphy called on his freshman left-hander to pitch to the top of the Huskies’ lineup.
Hardly an ideal spot for Preston to enter the game, but she got Van Zee swinging at strike three and then got Sis Bates to ground out to second base to strand the bases loaded, keeping Alabama within striking distance down 3-0.
“That’s good for her — for both of them (Preston and Gettins) really. Neither one of them had Division I (postseason) experience,” Murphy said. “When I called timeout the second time and went out there, I said (to Preston), ‘Look, this is exactly what we want you to do. You’re going to be in this situation for three more years, let’s have fun out here. Enjoy the crowd, enjoy the experience and get some outs.’”
Preston allowed three runs on five hits in 3 2/3 innings, looking more poised, more seasoned, that she did when she pitched at Washington in March.
With Osorio graduating, Preston and Gettins are expected to be Alabama’s workhorses next season.
“(Preston) was much better now than she was in March when she pitched down here,” Murphy said. “It was a complete transformation, and both of them are going to have some big-time innings for us next year.”
The loss was an emotional one for Alabama’s six seniors.
“It was one heck of a ride, for sure,” senior second baseman Demi Turner said. “I mean, we’ve all had ups and downs. I’m not just going to miss it because of the game, but I’ll miss being in this softball family.”