Alabama holds off Tennessee
Crimson Tide use four-run first to race past Lady Vols
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Second-seeded Alabama posted four runs in the first inning and never looked back, defeating Tennessee 5-3 on Thursday evening.
The Crimson Tide (56-7) advances to face the Oregon/Arizona State winner on Friday, while Tennessee (52-13) falls to the loser’s bracket and will play the Oregon/ASU loser on Saturday in an elimination contest.
Alabama didn’t waste any time breaking out its offense, as 10 batters came to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning. After Kayla Braud, Jennifer Fenton and Kaila Hunt loaded the bases on a single, walk and single, first baseman Cassie Reilly-Boccia crushed a double to left field scoring all three. A walk issued to designated player Amanda Locke forced Tennessee starting pitcher Ivy Renfroe from the game prior to recording an out.
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Alabama 5, Tennessee 3
California 5, LSU 3
Oklahoma 5, South Florida 1
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Ellen Renfroe took the circle for the Lady Vols and walked the next two batters she faced. A liner directly back to the circle stopped the bleeding, and Alabama left the bases loaded, leading 4-0.
“The first inning was key,” said Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy. “I think all of us in here would love to pitch with a 4-0 lead after the first inning. Our batters did a great job, took advantage of some walks, and then Cassie Reilly-Boccia came through with a huge hit, a bases-loaded double and cleared them. That’s just a good way to start this year’s World Series for us.”
Tennessee mounted a two-out rally in the top of the second. Melissa Brown got on base with a ground ball single through the left side of the infield, and left fielder Melissa Davin cranked a home run just over the left-field fence to cut Alabama’s lead in half.
In the bottom of the fourth, Alabama would add a fifth run. Braud put a one-out double into right centerfield, and scored on a single to right by Fenton, making the score 5-0. Ivy Renfroe would re-enter the game, and pitched the remainder of the contest for the Lady Vols.
The Lady Vols made things interesting in the top of the seventh inning, as pinch-hitters Cheyanne Tarango and Hannah Akamine both drew one-out walks, turning the lineup back to the top of the order. Third baseman Raven Chavanne connected on a seeing eye single to the right side of the Alabama infield, scoring Davin, who re-entered to run for Tarango and cut Alabama’s lead to 5-3. Alabama pitcher Jackie Trania recovered to strike out Tory Lewis and Kat Dotson to end the game.
“I felt good tonight,” said Trania. “It was the first game, and you’re just excited. I’ve got to work on finishing it and make sure that I don’t overthink on the mound. I just think back to fundamentals and what I need to do and throw my pitches.”
Trania struck out eight in the game, walking three and issuing three walks. Braud led the Crimson Tide offense, going 3-for-4 in the game with two runs scored and a stolen base. Reilly-Boccia had three of the team’s five RBI on the game, all on that first-inning double.
• In its eighth WCWS appearance, Alabama won its opening game for the second time in program history. It is also the second consecutive year that the Crimson Tide won its WCWS opener. Alabama is 9-14 in WCWS play, 2-6 in its opening game.
• Thursday's loss for Tennessee was its first opening-day loss in five WCWS appearances. The Lady Vols are now 4-1 on Thursday at the WCWS, and 12-9 all-time in the event.
• Alabama senior Jennifer Fenton has now hit safely in 11 consecutive games, thanks to a fourth-inning single. She has reached safely in 14 consecutive contests and is batting .600 (12-for-20) with eight runs scored and five RBI in five NCAA tournament games.