Dunne dominant in big 'Bama win
Larsen and Hunt had RBI singles in the victory
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Since their season was suddenly on the line, Kelsi Dunne and the Crimson Tide have made it impossible for their opponents to get them down.
Dunne pitched six spotless innings Friday night, Whitney Larsen and Kaila Hunt had RBI singles and second-seeded Alabama moved into the Women’s College World Series semifinals by beating Baylor 3-0.
The tandem of Dunne and freshman Jackie Traina has put up zeroes for 30 1/3 consecutive innings since the third inning of a 5-2 loss to Stanford in their super regional opener.
Dunne said Larsen, a fellow senior, pulled the team together after that loss -- which made it necessary for Alabama (53-9) to win back-to-back elimination games to reach the World Series -- and told players to take a “fearless” mindset.
“Ever since then, we have come out and we’ve been fearless and we have fought together,” said Dunne, who has 24 2/3 scoreless innings in a row. “We’ve just been playing. All cylinders of our game have been clicking together and coming together at the right time.
“Our defense has been phenomenal and we’ve been getting those timely hits that we have fallen short of before.”
The Crimson Tide will get two chances Sunday to get the one win they need to reach the best-of-three championship series for the first time. It’s also the first time they’ve been in such a favorable position. In their last two trips to the World Series, the Tide rallied back for two wins in the losers’ bracket but still needed two more to reach the finals.
Dunne (29-4) had given up 21 runs in 40 2/3 innings over six starts in those trips as a freshman and sophomore, then the top-seeded Tide got bounced in the super regionals last season when Dunne won her first SEC pitcher of the year honor.
She has allowed only five singles throughout 12 shutout innings at this year’s World Series.
“Kelsi is in a zone right now,” coach Patrick Murphy said. “It just warms my heart to know that a senior is in that position when she comes to her final performance in her career.”
Amanda Locke drove in the first run for Alabama with a sacrifice fly in the first inning off of Whitney Canion (30-11). Hunt singled and scored on Larsen’s two-out base hit in the fourth and then provided her own RBI single with two outs in the fifth.
Bama’s best start at the World Series also comes with Tuscaloosa approximately a month removed from the deadly tornadoes that killed 42 and damaged or destroyed more than 5,000 homes while the team huddled in a stadium basement.
“It makes you come closer, even closer than we were before,” Dunne said. “We have such a supportive community, and they stick with us through the good and the bad, and we want to stick with them and help them celebrate something.”
Holly Holl had two of the five hits by Baylor (46-14). The Bears will face an elimination game Saturday night against one of two Big 12 rivals, Oklahoma or Missouri.
Baylor coach Glenn Moore second-guessed his decision to call the grounds crew out in the first inning with runners on first and second when he noticed Kayce Walker was struggling with her footing on the wet infield dirt. But he said even if he did “pour water maybe on a fire,” he’s glad he did.
“When we’ve had two kids tear ACLs on leads at second base and you see her slip twice, then it’s not worth it to lose a kid,” Moore said.
After the delay, Dunne retired the next two hitters to get out of the inning. After allowing the two first-inning singles, she allowed only two throughout the next five innings.
Traina threw a scoreless seventh for her fourth save.