Editor’s Note: Game was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Weather delayed the start until the conclusion of the Minnesota vs. Washington game
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The softball career of one group of seniors will end Saturday. The other group will extend it for just a little longer with the hope of a national title at the finish line.
Alabama and Florida meet in an elimination game at the Women’s College World Series after losing their openers Thursday. Florida fell to Oklahoma State 2-1 while Alabama dropped a heartbreaker to Oklahoma 3-2.
“It’s going to be tough to have to finish a career of someone,” Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. “That’s what we are doing now. That’s what we had to do at super regionals and that’s what we had to do at regionals. You are ending the career of some kids. You know nobody wants to do that. They don’t want to do that so it’s going to be a really tough battle.”
In the opener, Oklahoma took a 3-2 lead against Alabama in the sixth inning on an RBI triple from Nicole Mendes. The Crimson Tide went in order in the seventh.
“Some of them are still disappointed obviously,” Murphy said the following day. “But it’s a new group. They are resilient. That’s been our theme all year long. They have been gritty.
“They still want to play, which is the cool thing. You want to be on a team that doesn’t want to give up the uniform for the seniors. You want them to hang on to that uniform for as long as possible and keep playing.”
Alabama came close to taking down top-seed Oklahoma but had one or two hits that were taken away from the OU defense, which leads the nation in fielding percentage.
Claire Jenkins, who broke out of an 0-for-19 slump against the Sooners with two hits, including a solo home run, was almost the hero again in the sixth inning. With a runner on second, Jenkins hit a line drive down the third-base line, but OU third baseman Sydney Romero was there for the catch.
“The margin of error in the World Series is so damn small,” Murphy said. “She literally threw her glove up and caught it. She’s a great player, but that’s a run. Elissa’s (Brown) sharp line drive in the seventh inning where their second baseman is also a first-team All American — if she doesn’t make that play, the ball is in the gap and Elissa is either at second or third.”
Murphy said creating opportunities against Florida is key Saturday. The two SEC squads have met four times this season, so there’s no sense in breaking out the scouting report.
Florida won the last meeting, which was the SEC Tournament championship game. Florida ace Kelly Barnhill kept Alabama off-balance for seven innings in a 2-1 Gator victory.
Alabama swept a three-game series at Gainesville in April (3-1, 6-1, 3-0), using three different starting pitchers — Montana Fouts, Sarah Cornell and Krystal Goodman.
“We know them, they know us,” Murphy said. “It’s basically going to come down to — for our hitters — staying in the strike zone, controlling the strike zone if it’s Barnhill (in the circle) and not letting her climb the ladder with her rise ball.”