OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Alabama captured the first softball national championship in school and SEC history by rallying to beat Oklahoma, 5-3, early Thursday morning in the third game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series Championship series at the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City.
The game was delayed for nearly three hours due to rain in the area, but eventually got underway at 9:55 p.m.
When the game finally got going, both teams appeared ready as each retired their respective side in order. However, Oklahoma pitcher Keilani Ricketts helped her own cause by taking the second pitch of the second inning down the right field line and over the wall for her 17th home run of the season and first of the WCWS.
In the third, the Sooners’ Javen Henson led off the frame with a hard ground ball straight up the middle. Henson was put out on the next play via a fielder’s choice, but was replaced on the paths by Brianna Turang. Just two batters later, Lauren Chamberlain brought herself and Turang home with a blast to left field to give Oklahoma (54-10) a 3-0 lead.
Alabama (60-8) took the lead in the fourth and it all began with a single from Kaila Hunt to lead off the inning. Hunt went on to score on three wild pitches from Ricketts, while Kendall Dawson reached base on a walk.
Dawson went on to score in the next at-bat on a hard-hit single from Amanda Locke that went screaming through the left side. Courtney Conley followed up Locke’s single with a double of her own to score Locke and knot the game at three.
The tie, however, did not last long as Jazlyn Lunceford reached in the next at-bat on a throwing error from Oklahoma’s Jessica Vest, allowing Lunceford to score and the Tide to take a 4-3 lead.
Alabama added an insurance run in the fifth on a RBI-single from Traina that plated Jennifer Fenton and capped its scoring at five. Oklahoma cut the deficit to one in the seventh on another Chamberlain home run, but that would be as close as it would get, falling 5-4.
Following the game, Traina was named as the tournament’s most outstanding player. Over the six-game span, she went 5-1 with a 3.00 ERA, 45 strikeouts and an opponent’s batting average of .217. Offensively, she was equally as impressive batting .400 and slugging .667 with 6 RBIs, a double, a home run and an on-base percentage of .500.
During the post-game conference, head coach Patrick Murphy talked about Alabama finally winning the national title in its eighth WCWS appearance.
“The second year of the program, we came here with Kelly Kretschman, Shelley Laird, and Ginger Jones, a great team. Shelley was our first, best pitcher that we recruited. You know, at the time, I kept telling everybody, I said, ‘I don't want to be an one‑hit wonder and this be the one time to come to the World Series’, because you never know. Then we got Stephanie VanBrakle, then we got a kid named Kelsi Dunne, and then we got a kid named Jackie Traina. I felt like if we kept going or coming back, we could win one. It just took eight times to get here, and it was eighth time was a charm.”
In just the third game three since the championship series began in 2005, the Tide continued the trend of the team that lost game one coming back to win games two and three. Michigan completed the feat in 2005 against UCLA, as did Arizona in 2007 against Tennessee.
The championship gave Alabama its fourth of the 2011-2012 academic year over all sponsored sports. The Tide previously captured titles this season in the Football Bowl Subdivision, women’s gymnastics and women’s golf.
The 2012 WCWS was the best attended in the history of the event. New overall and per-session attendance marks were established this year at 75,960 and 8,440, respectively. Session attendance records were broken in eight of the nine sessions and the all-time session record heading into this season was surpassed three separate times.