Even though Rhoads Stadium will have the marquee matchup of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday with the University of Alabama squaring off against Minnesota, weather threatens to become the story of the Tuscaloosa Regional.
With rain and thunderstorms expected in the area on Saturday all game times have been moved up two hours (see below).
As of Friday night, the Weather Channel’s forecast had thunderstorms moving into the area at 11 a.m., with an 80 percent chance of rain, a high of 86 degrees and winds SSE 9 mph. More of the same is expected Sunday.
But the humidity and dewpoint are also a factor.
When Minnesota’s 11-3 victory over Louisiana Tech finished Friday afternoon it was already 90-plus degrees out, with a heat index of 96 at the Tuscaloosa airport. The humidity was 72 percent.
Back in the Twin Cities it was 54 degrees.
“It was pretty hot,” Alabama sophomore catcher Reagan Dykes said. “I was talking to the umpire and we were like, ‘Dang, we are sweating a lot today.’
“I think that’s an advantage to us this weekend. I’m sure Louisiana Tech is used to it, but the other teams from up north aren’t used to this humidity.”
— TuscaloosaRegional (@TuscRegional) May 19, 2017
NCAA Tuscaloosa Softball Regional, game times, details
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: Minnesota 11, Louisiana Tech 3
Game 2: Alabama 5, Albany 1
Game 3: Minnesota (55-3) vs. Alabama (43-16), Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET
Game 4: Louisiana Tech (37-23) vs. Albany (27-17), Saturday, 3 p.m. ET
Game 5: Game 4 winner vs. Game 3 loser, Saturday 5:30 p.m. 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
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. Some off Saturday’s broadcasts TBD (Note: This story will be updated when ESPN announces its broadcast schedule).
Game 3: Minnesota (55-3) vs. Alabama (43-16), 12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Game 4: Louisiana Tech (37-23) vs. Albany (27-17), 3 p.m. ET, ESPN3
Game 5: Game 4 winner vs. Game 3 loser, 5:30 p.m. ET
Announcers: Cheri Kempf and Pam Ward
What’s the best way to keep up with the Alabama softball game vs. Minnesota?
In addition to the TV/video broadcast, other options include:
What you should know
- The hype surrounding today’s game centers around the NCAA selection committee’s controversial decision to not seed Minnesota in the tournament despite it having the best record in college softball. Alabama was seeded 16th, which gave it the opportunity to host. Alabama is tied for No. 14 in the latest USA Today/NFCA poll and No. 15 in the ESPN.com/USASoftballpoll. Minnesota was ranked first and third, respectively.
- After batting .571 at the SEC Tournament, Alabama freshman first baseman Bailey Hemphill hit her third home run in four games on Friday. She’s reached base in 14 of her last 16 games, hitting 13-41 (.317) over that stretch with 11 RBIs, seven runs scored and 13 walks (.509 OBP). When asked what’s different, Coach Patrick Murphy said she’s swinging at more pitches.
- Governor Mark Dayton declared Friday “National Number One Softball Team Minnesota Gophers Day” in Minnesota.
— Governor Mark Dayton (@GovMarkDayton) May 19, 2017
- The Gophers were eager to put the bracket controversy behind them, and came out swinging aggressively. “I think there were some nerves out there,” Allister said. Right fielder Maddie Houlihan and second baseman MaKenna Partain both when 3-for-3 with four RBIs hitting in the heart of the order. “I think we set a good tone,” Houlihan said.
- After resting on Friday, look for junior Alexis Osorio (21-7, 1.29 ERA) to start for the Crimson Tide.
- Minnesota used three pitchers against Louisiana Tech, with ace Sara Groenewegen getting the start and throwing 25 pitches over two scoreless innings. Freshman Fiser also pitched two innings, giving up two runs and one hit while throwing 34 pitches, and Tory Finucane threw the fifth. “We want to keep everyone fresh,” Coach Jessica Allister said. “The quicker we can get everyone out there the better.”
- Alabama has won 32 straight regional games, and advanced out of each of the last 12 regionals. Overall, the Crimson Tide are 43-3 (.935) when hosting a regional.
- Louisiana Tech coach Mark Montgomery used a boxing analogy to describe his team’s start, falling behind 8-0 in the first two innings, saying it was like getting punched in the face “and we were too busy wiping the blood out of our eyes to punch back.” Montgomery went with the hot hand pitching with sophomore Krystal Del La Cruz, a Division II transfer who led the staff in the Conference USA Tournament, followed by freshman Jenny Chapman.“They’re awfully good,” he said about the Gophers.
- Alabama watched the regional opener closely: “I think we gained some confidence watching [Minnesota] play,” Hemphill said. “It wasn’t that they played bad, but we saw that it was a team we could handle.”
- A general theme Friday was how impressed the visiting teams were with the crowd at Rhoads Stadium. “It is intimidating with a crowd like that,” Albany head coach Chris Cannata said. “It’s only going to help the young ones and it’s a great experience for our seniors to have.” Attendance was announced at 1,800. More than twice that are expected Saturday depending on the weather.