A horrible moment on the field turned into a rallying cry for Texas.
Early in Game 2 of Friday’s super regional game, Miranda Elish was hit in the face by a throw from catcher Mary Iakopo, forcing the Longhorn pitcher to exit with her team trailing 4-0.
Texas scored seven unanswered runs and held off Alabama for a 7-5 win at Rhoads Stadium, forcing a decisive third game Saturday at 1 p.m. It’s the first super regional loss for Alabama (56-8) at home since 2015 to Oklahoma.
“She’s OK,” Texas coach Mike White said of Elish, who was taken by ambulance to DCH Hospital after the injury in the second inning. “She was in good spirits and sent us a message straight away about the game.”
Elish was drilled when Tide hitter Elissa Brown laid down a bunt that was ruled a dead ball, but Iakopo threw to second base and hit Elish, who was standing about 12 feet away.
“Nobody feels worse than Mary Iakopo, but those things happen,” White said. “It was an accident.”
It was also the turning point of the game.
Alabama took a 4-0 lead into the third inning when Texas got hot. Alabama starting pitcher Krystal Goodman was pulled for Tide ace Montana Fouts with runners on first and third.
It seemed like a good idea considering what Fouts did the previous night. She was the star of Game 1 with a three-hit, complete-game shutout, but could not maintain the dominant effort Friday.
“We definitely said she was our motivation when we came together (on the field after Elish was hit),” Texas right fielder MK Tedder said. “A couple of us just came together and prayed and wanting her to be OK.”
Fouts gave up a three-run homer to the first batter she faced, Iakopo, to make it a 4-3 Tide lead.
“It was a game-changer,” Iakopo said. “Just flipped the switch and we knew we were in the ball game.”
It got worse for Fouts.
She gave up a solo home run to Tedder to lead off the fourth and gave up two more hits before exiting and bringing back Goodman in the circle. Fouts pitched 2/3 of an inning, allowed four hits and two runs.
Texas put up three more runs in the inning with some help from a Skylar Wallace error.
“You could feel a little shift after the first home run,” said Alabama first baseman Bailey Hemphill, who hit her 24th home run of the season. “Then they tied it up and then the wheels kind of started falling off.”
Alabama didn’t waste any time getting runs on the board. A KB Sides single and a pair of walks loaded the bases for Reagan Dykes in the first inning. The Tide catcher grounded out to bring home Sides for a 1-0 lead.
Wallace then drove in two more with a base hit up the middle to make it 3-0 and all the momentum was on UA’s side.
Alabama tacked on one more run in the second on a Texas throwing error to make it 4-0.