Alabama softball one win shy of first national championship

When last season’s Women’s College World Series was coming to an end, Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy was preparing to leave Tuscaloosa for Baton Rouge.

Now, nearly a year removed from his job change, which lasted only a weekend, Murphy has the Crimson Tide softball team on the cusp of winning its first national championship with game three of the championship against Oklahoma scheduled for tonight.

The motto for this year’s team has been “Finish it,” and Murphy and the players wear wristbands that display the saying.

“It's something that the seniors, the girls came up with maybe at the beginning of the semester,” Murphy said. “When we leave our hitting facility, they've got a sign, and there's basically a handprint. And it says ‘finish it’. Everybody slaps that handprint as they walk out into the field every day.

“That sign also comes with us, another one comes with us in the dugout. If you were on the field side, you could see it in the dugout, but that would be the ultimate finishing it this season.”

After getting no run support in game one, sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina took matters into her own hands and led the Tide from the plate and the circle. Traina earned the win, improving to a nation-leading 41-3 on the year, and added two hits and three RBIs. Traina threw a complete game, giving up the six runs on nine hits while striking out eight batters with two hits and three RBIs, propelling Alabama to an 8-6 victory over Oklahoma on Tuesday.

The Tide took advantage of four Sooner walks and six hits by pitches, needing only four hits to score eight runs. Offensively, Traina led the way in the circle with eight strikeouts, and defensively senior Amanda Locke also drove in three RBIs on the night.

Oklahoma made it interesting in the bottom of the seventh, scoring five times to get within two runs of the Tide. Traina said she was able to stay calm, and her teammates picked her up.

“Cass [Cassie Reilly-Boccia] looks at me like, ‘Stop it right here, new inning. There is no one on base. Start over right here,’” Traina said. “And Kendall [Dawson] came out to me, and she always makes me smile and can put a lot of fire in my heart with the stuff that she says.”

Now, it all comes down to a winner-take-all game three. Alabama can become the first team from the Southeastern Conference to win a national championship, while Oklahoma is vying for its second in school history.

Alabama has been knocking on the door of a championship for three of the past four years and seems ready to kick the door in.

“It comes down to Jackie Traina,” Chad Haynie, WVUA-FM’s play-by-play voice for Alabama softball, said. “She has that killer mentality in the circle. That, along with her supporting cast, makes this team better.”

The WCWS has only gone to a three-game series twice before, with the winner of game two winning the national championship (Michigan 2000, Arizona 2006).

Game three is scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m. and will air on ESPN.

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