TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Alabama softball and Minnesota needed nine innings to settle its NCAA Regional matchup on Saturday, with neither team scoring until a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth gave the Crimson Tide the one-run victory.
With the win, Alabama (44-16) advances to its 15th-straight NCAA Regional final, playing for a title every season since 2003. The Tide's NCAA Regional win streak also extends to 33 games, last falling in a regional game in 2007. The shutout over Minnesota (55-4) is the 25th of the season for Crimson Tide pitching staff, just one shy of the single-season school record.
Alabama and Minnesota were locked in a hard-fought pitcher's duel as Alexis Osorio (22-7) and Sara Groenewegen (30-3) were both stellar in the circle. The Tide were held hitless until the third inning and the Golden Gophers only had four base runners in regulation before tallying its first hit in the top of the eighth. Ultimately, Osorio would get the win, allowing just two hits over 9.0 shutout innings with 11 strikeouts. Demi Turner, making her first start since April 1, accounted for two of Alabama's four hits batting ninth while Reagan Dykes earned the game-winning RBI on a bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning.
With two of the nation's best pitchers in the circle, both offenses struggled to find momentum early. Minnesota drew a pair of walks in the first three innings and Turner tallied the first hit for either team with a two-out single in the bottom of the third.
Osorio would retire 10-straight batters before allowing a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh. The runner advanced to second on a groundout and, after a popup, a hit-by-pitch put two on base for the Gophers with two out. After a long battle at the plate, Osorio forced her counterpart Groenewegen to popup in foul territory to end the half-inning and keep it scoreless. In the bottom half of the inning, Bailey Hemphill poked a two-out single up the middle and pinch-runner Mari Cranek stole second but a fly ball would end the inning, sending the game to extra innings.
Minnesota led off the top of the eighth with its first hit of the day, a single up the middle, and followed that with a walk after a 14-pitch at bat. A popup and groundout put two outs on the board and, with first base open, Alabama intentionally walked Minnesota's home run leader Kendyl Lindaman to load the bases. With a full count at the plate, Osorio induced a groundout from Maddie Houlihan to strand the bases loaded and keep it tied at 0-0.
With good speed on the base paths in the bottom of the ninth in Elissa Brown and Chandler Dare, Marisa Runyon was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. With a 3-1 count at the plate, Dykes watched ball four go by to draw the bases-loaded walk and give Alabama the 1-0 win.
Next, Alabama advances to Sunday's NCAA Regional finale and will face the winner of Saturday's night's final game. First pitch on Sunday is set for a 1:30 p.m. CT first pitch.