TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - For the 13th-straight season, Alabama softball will play in the NCAA Super Regional round after shutting out Minnesota, 1-0, Sunday to win the NCAA Softball Tuscaloosa Regional.
Alabama (45-16) is the only team in the country to play in every Super Regional round since its inception in 2005. The regional title is the 13th-straight for the Tide and 15th overall. Alabama will play top-seeded Florida in Gainesville, Fla. Game dates and times for the best-of-three series are still to be determined.
The shutout over Minnesota (56-5) is the 26th of the season for Alabama, tying the single-season school record set in 2009. Senior Sydney Littlejohn (17-8) gave the Tide 5.1 shutout innings in the start and junior Alexis Osorio shut the door, throwing 1.2 innings with no base runners allowed for her fourth save of the season. Alabama's lone run came on an RBI double by Marisa Runyon in the first inning and the Golden Gophers couldn't capitalize on its scoring opportunities in the subsequent innings, leaving five runners on base.
With Alabama batting in the top of the first as the designated away team, a one-out single by Chandler Dare was followed by a double in the gap by Runyon to give the Tide an early 1-0 lead. Minnesota tallied its first hit of the day in the bottom of the second but a 6-4-3 double play ended the inning and preserved the one-run lead.
Alabama left a runner in scoring position in both the third and fourth innings but could not add to its 1-0 lead. With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Minnesota hit back-to-back singles. A backhanded flip by Demi Turner got one out at second base leaving runners at the corners before a groundout ended the inning to keep it 1-0 in the Tide's favor.
With one out and a runner at first in the top of the fifth, the throw on a force-out attempt at second sailed wide, allowing Sydney Booker to slide in safely on the error and Elissa Brown to stand at first on the fielder's choice. A pair of strikeouts got Minnesota out of the jam to end the half-inning. The Gophers would put a runner on in the bottom of the fifth but a fantastic diving catch by Rachel Bobo in foul territory ended the inning with the Tide still leading, 1-0.
A one-out single and walk in the bottom of the sixth put two on base for Minnesota and Alabama turned to Osorio in relief. Consecutive force-outs at second base would end the inning and give the Tide a chance to add some insurance to its one-run lead in the top of the seventh. Alabama went down in order in the top half but Osorio shut the Gophers down in the bottom,
The takes Alabama to Gainesville to face the Florida Gators (53-7) for the first time this season in a best-of-three series.