OKLAHOMA CITY -- For the first time in program history, Alabama punched its ticket to the NCAA Championship Series. The Crimson Tide (58-7) will face Oklahoma in a best-of-three series for the NCAA Championship beginning Monday night at 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

California, the top seed in this year’s NCAA tournament, finishes its season with a record of 58-7.

Alabama pitcher Jackie Trania helped her own cause in the bottom of the second inning, crushing her 10th home run of the season several rows up into the left field bleachers for the 1-0 lead.

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Cal threatened in the top of the third inning, loading the bases on a Jamia Reid infield single and walks to Britt Vonk and Valerie Arioto. That brought up Frani Echavarria, the Bears top hitter, who grounded out to first base to end the inning and the threat.

The Crimson Tide scratched out a second run in the bottom of the third inning as Braud led off with a single and took second on a throwing error. Jennifer Fenton singled to center, but Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy held Braud at third, though she could have scored easily on an inaccurate throw home.

Kaila Hunt then popped up near the first base bag, but Cal’s first and second basemen both lost it in the sun allowing the ball to drop and roll away as Braud scored and Hunt advanced to second. Pitcher Jolene Henderson recovered with a pair of strikeouts to keep the damage manageable at 2-0.

Cal answered in the top of the fourth inning. Second baseman Jace Williams drew a leadoff walk and would come around to score on a Danielle Henderson home run, her 16th of the season. It was another shot to left field that landed well up into the bleachers in left, and it tied the game, 2-2.

The back-and-forth struggle continued in the bottom of the frame. Jazlyn Lunceford drew a leadoff walk and went to second on a Trania single. Lunceford would score on a Kendall Dawson single to left, and a two-out flair to left from Braud looked like it would yield more runs, but Reid, Cal’s left fielder, was able to make the catch and end the frame with Alabama leading just 3-2.

A fourth Crimson Tide run came across in the bottom of the fifth on yet another home run to left field. This time, it was off the bat of Hunt, her 21st of the season.

In the top of the sixth, Cal put together another rally. Ashley Decker reached on a strikeout-wild pitch to lead off the inning, and Danielle Henderson gave the Bears runners on first and second with no outs. Unfortunately for the Bears, Henderson was subsequently picked off of first base and a strikeout ended the inning and the threat.

Lunceford added a fifth run for Alabama, homering to right field to lead off the bottom of the sixth. It was her eighth of the season.

Jackie Trania struck out six and walked six, allowing two runs on two hits. She is now 40-2 this season. Alabama’s nine hits were spread among six players with Braud, Hunt and Trania all recording multiple hits in the game.

NOTES
• Attendance for Session 6 was 9,167. It is the sixth record-setting number in as many sessions this year. The current WCWS session attendance average for 2012 is 8,762 fans, well ahead of last year’s record pace (7,515).

• This year’s WCWS features four of the top seven single-session attendance figures in event history, including the top three.

• This year’s 52,574 six-session attendance figure is already higher than the total attendance figure of 25 of the previous 30 WCWS’s. There will be at least two more sessions to be played this year.

• Alabama has never lost a WCWS game in which junior Kayla Braud has gotten a hit. Braud led off the bottom of the first with an infield single.

• Trania’s second-inning home run was her first since Alabama’s May 4 meeting with Florida in Tuscaloosa.

• The three home runs surrendered by Cal’s Jolene Henderson Sunday are the most she has allowed this season in a single game.