GAINESVILLE, Fla. - With two of the nation's best pitchers in the circle, Alabama softball and Florida were locked in a scoreless battle for 4.0 innings before the Tide executed some small-ball offense in the fifth inning and capitalized on two Gator errors to score three runs, which proved enough to win 3-0.
Alabama (46-16) was again led by a stellar pitching performance from Alexis Osorio (23-7), earning the complete-game shutout win while limiting No. 1-seeded Florida (53-8) to just three hits. Tide pitching has only allowed one run during the NCAA Tournament, including a current streak of 28.2 scoreless innings. Thursday's shutout was the 27th of the season for Alabama, which sets a new single-season school record.
Alabama scored all three of its runs in the top of the fifth, capitalizing on two throwing errors by Florida starter Kelly Barnhill (23-3) on a pair of sacrifice bunt attempts. The three runs scored are the most allowed by the Gators since its 3-1 loss to Florida State on May 3.
Florida got a pair of runners on base in both the first and second innings, but Alabama got out of the jam each time, doing so on a strikeout in the first and a pickoff at second base in the second. The Tide's leadoff single by Demi Turner in the top of the first would be its lone base runner until the fifth inning, as Barnhill retired 11-straight before Bailey Hemphill drew a leadoff walk in the top of the fifth.
With pinch-runner Mari Cranek on first base for Hemphill, Reagan Dykes laid down a bunt in the next at-bat and the throw to second was not in time which put two on base with nobody out. Chandler Dare followed with another bunt, attempting to move the runners into scoring position, but the throw to first sailed over the first baseman's head, allowing two runs to come home on the error and give Alabama a 2-0 lead. Another sac bunt attempt by Sydney Booker resulted in yet another throwing error, scoring Dare from second to make it 3-0.
Florida would load the bases with two out in the bottom of the fifth and Janell Wheaton would battle through a 12-pitch at bat but a fly ball to left would get Alabama out of the jam and keep it a 3-0 game. A pair of walks put two runners on base for Alabama to start the top of the sixth and that ended Barnhill's outing with right fielder Aleshia Ocasio moving into the circle to pitch. The junior righty got the Gators out of the tough spot with a lineout double play and a groundout as the score remained 3-0.
Alabama could not add to its three-run lead in the top of the seventh and Florida was quickly brought down to its final out with two strikeouts to start the bottom half of the inning. Amanda Lorenz drew a walk to extend the inning but a deep popup to second base ended it as the Tide held on to win, 3-0.
Game two of the best-of-three series is set for a 7 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. CT start on Friday, May 26 live on ESPN.