TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Saturday’s pitching duel between Alabama’s Alexis Osorio and Minnesota’s Sara Groenewegen was undoubtedly one of the best of the college softball season.
So how about a rematch?
With the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional a double-elimination tournament, there’s a chance for round two between the teams, and maybe even the pitchers on Sunday.
The showdown went nine innings, with the two aces combining to throw 305 pitches, allowing just six hits and one run, while striking out 21 and walking six.
Osorio threw 180 pitches, which was close to her career high of 184 against Auburn on May 5. Had Alabama not scored in the ninth inning Coach Patrick Murphy admitted that he probably would have kept going with her in the 10th inning, but didn’t know how much longer his ace could go.
“She threw a seven-inning no-hitter against one of the best hitting teams, with a lot of home runs and doubles in their stats,” he said. “It was probably one of her best games, [Texas] A&M maybe in the SEC Tournament was very similar as they’re a very similar team with their power, and she shut them down.”
Facing elimination with another loss, Minnesota still has to win to reach the championship round, and if so Coach Jessia Allister would obviously prefer to start Groenewegen against the Crimson Tide. It wouldn’t be unheard of to use her again if the Gophers can win and force a winner-takes-all game.
“She’s a great pitcher,” both junior second baseman Demi Turner and sophomore Reagan Dykes said about Groenewegen after Saturday’s 1-0 victory.
Alabama spent a good part of the week preparing to see Groenewegen’s change-up, with Murphy frequently throwing the pitch during the team’s four days of practice leading up to the regional. Dykes bit on one in the seventh inning when she flied out with a runner in scoring position, but held off it during her final at-abt.
After getting ahead 2-0 in the count, Murphy gave Dyes a take sign on the next three pitches, the last of which was called ball four to walk in the winning run.
“She was going to swing on a full count if we got there, obviously,” Murphy said. “I know some other schools that have played against her gave [the sign] to take throughout the game at any count, they just guessed when she would throw her change-up, it’s that good.”
Murphy will have a more interesting decision on whether to start senior Sydney Littlejohn (16-8, 1.29 ERA), who 58 pitches against Albany on Friday, or Osorio (22-7, 1.17 ERA) despite her high pitch count.
“She’s probably going to get in the cold-tub right now,” Murphy said after Saturday’s win. “Everybody probably will.”
NCAA Tuscaloosa Softball Regional, game times, details
After Albany vs. Louisiana Tech had a rain delay lasting approximately four hours, Game 5 between the winner, Louisiana Tech, and Minnesota was rescheduled for Sunday, However, rain was again in the forecast.
According to The Weather Channel conditions should be similar to what Tuscaloosa experienced on Saturday with scattered thunderstorms, and a high of around 80 — to go with 81 percent humidity, which will rise to 95 percent by Sunday night. The chance of rain is 60 percent, with winds light and variable.
Each regional is a double-elimination tournament. The winning team advances to face the winner of the Gainesville Regional (Florida or Oklahoma State) in a super regional, May 25-28.
Game 1: Minnesota 11, Louisiana Tech 3
Game 2: Alabama 5, Albany 1
Game 3: Alabama 1, Minnesota 0 (9)
Game 4: Louisiana Tech 8, Albany 1, Albany eliminated
Game 5: Minnesota 5, Louisiana Tech 2 (9), Louisiana Tech eliminated
Game 6: Alabama 1, Minnesota 0, Minnesota eliminated
Location: Rhoads Stadium, Tuscaloosa
What’s the best way to watch the NCAA Tuscaloosa Softball Regional?
Every regional game will be televised by the ESPN family of networks and available online on ESPN3. Schedule updates can be found on NCAA.com.
Game 6: Alabama (44-16) vs. Minnesota (56-4), 6:10 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Announcers: Cheri Kempf and Pam Ward
— Sara Groenewegen (@saragroe) May 15, 2017
What’s the best way to keep up with the Alabama softball at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional?
In addition to the TV/video broadcast, other options include:
What you should know
• Alabama has won 33 straight regional games, and advanced out of each of the last 12 regionals. Overall, the Crimson Tide are 44-3 (.936) when hosting a regional.
• Alabama players and coaches felt that playing in so-many one-run games of late may have given them an edge in the late innings on Saturday. Minnesota was riding a 26-game winning streak during which only two games were decided by one run.
• Although Osorio finished with 11 strikeouts, she had only one over her last three innings, the called third-strike for the final out in the top ninth. The back-door curve was giving Minnesota problems, but the Gophers became more patient as the game progressed. “Early on we were timid,” Allister said.
• Despite having the leadoff hitter reach base in both the seventh and eighth innings, Allister opted not to bunt in either situation. In the seventh she had Maddie Houlihan, who is batting .402, up next. In the eighth she let nine-hole hitter Allie Arneson bat and was rewarded with a 14-pitch walk. “You think about it, but once you start bunting you open up bases,” the coach said. “Then you allow her to pitch around people.”
• Saturday’s shutout was Alabama’s 25th of the season, one shy of the program record.