The University of Alabama softball team got a big emotional lift this week when junior second baseman Demi Turner was medically cleared to fully practice and rejoined her teammates on the field.
“I was almost in tears when I found out that she had been cleared,” senior Marisa Runyon said. “She came back from the doctor and said, ‘We’re golden!’”
Turner suffered a facial injury April 1 at Missouri, resulting in an orbital fracture, concussion and blurred vision that sidelined her for more than a month. She was able to pinch-run during the finally weekend of conference play and during the SEC Tournament, but still couldn’t swing a bat or play defense.
Turner’s doctor gave her the green light on Monday.
“She took live batting practice,” Coach Patrick Murphy said. “The first round wasn’t so good. The second round she hit the top of the fence and was smiling like crazy.”
He added: “I think she’s just one tough kid.”
The plan is to sort of ease Turner back into her regular role and have her play against Albany on Friday, but not start. She could, though, on Saturday.
Turner leads the team with a .387 batting average and had multi-hit games in 11 of her 37 starts.
The host Crimson Tide are seeded 16th in the NCAA Tournament.
Alabama (46-16) is tied for No. 14 in the latest USA Today/NFCA poll and No. 15 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball poll. It’s No. 14 in the latest Rating Percentage Index (RPI).
Albany (27-16), the American East champion, is No. 190 in RPI.
— Alabama Softball (@AlabamaSB) May 18, 2017
NCAA Tuscaloosa Softball Regional, game times, details
According to the Weather Channel, Friday’s games should go off without a hitch as the forecast is for mostly sunny skies with a 20 percent chance of rain, high of 92 and winds SSE 8 mph. However, scattered thunderstorms will start moving into the area Saturday afternoon and there’s a 100 percent chance of rain with thunderstorms likely on Sunday.
Each regional is a double-elimination tournament. The winning team advances to face the winner of the Gainesville Regional (Florida, Florida A&M, FIU and Oklahoma State) in a super regional, May 25-28.
Game 1: Louisiana Tech (37-22) vs, Minnesota (54-3), Friday, 2:30 p.m. ET
Game 2: Albany (27-16) vs. Alabama (42-16), Friday, 5 p.m. ET
Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET
Game 4: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, Saturday, 5 p.m. ET
Game 5: Game 4 winner vs. Game 3 loser, Saturday 7:30 ET
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 5 winner, time TBD
Game 7: Game 6 winner vs. Game 6 loser, if necessary
Location: Rhoads Stadium, Tuscaloosa
Coach Cannata, Liz Snow, and Donna Conrad sat down for a press conference at Rhoads Stadium. pic.twitter.com/ElsQ7zocb1
— UAlbany Softball (@UAlbanySoftball) May 18, 2017
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 will also be available online on ESPN3. Saturday’s broadcasts TBD.
Game 1: Louisiana Tech vs. Minnesota, 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Game 2: Albany vs. Alabama, 5 p.m., ET, SEC Network
Announcers: Cheri Kempf and Pam Ward
What’s the best way to keep up with the Alabama softball game vs. Albany?
In addition to the TV/video broadcast, other options include:
What you should know
- Albany has won nine of its last 10 games and defeated Maine 6-1 to claim the America East title and automatic bid. This is the Great Dane’s sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament. The most recent was 2014 when seniors Liz Snow, Caitlin Cooper and Kayla were all freshmen.
- Snow, who usually plays catcher, leads the nation in doubles per game (.5), and is second in total doubles (21) and slugging percentage (.991). She’s batting .439 and tops Albany with 13 home runs.
- Albany has three pitchers tied for the team lead in wins with eight, and their ERAs are all between 3.29 and 3.91.
- Alabama has never lost to any of the other teams playing in the regional. It won the only meeting with Minnesota, 2-0 at the Metrodome Classic in Minneapolis on Feb. 10, 2000, and is 4-0 all-time against both Albany and Louisiana Tech.
- Juniors Alexis Osorio and Turner were both named first-team All-South Region by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) earlier this week. Osorio (21-7, 1.29 ERA) leads the SEC and ranks sixth nationally with 305 strikeouts over 179.1 innings pitched, an average of 1.7 per inning. She’s thrown 17 compete games, including eight shutouts.
- Alabama has not lost a regional game since 2007, having won 31 straight games. It’s also won each of its last 12 regionals, the longest active streak in the NCAA. Overall, the Crimson Tide are 50-9 (.847) in regional play and 43-3 (.935) when hosting.
- Murphy did not announce a starting pitcher against Albany between Osorio, senior Sydney Littlejohn (15-8, 1.36 ERA) and sophomore Maid Moore (6-1, 3.21), saying he’ll use whichever pitcher is the best matchup. Alabama will play only once each day as long as it keeps winning, but could also play twice on Saturday and Sunday.