OKLAHOMA CITY -- May 23 was a pivotal point on the softball career of Alabama's Marisa Runyon. As the sophomore endured a postseason slump, she was pinch hit for during a crucial elimination game against Oklahoma.
It could have been a critical hit to Runyon's confidence the rest of the game or worse. But that wasn't what took place. Not by a long shot.With her team trailing in the sixth inning of that same game, Tide coach Patrick Murphy went back to Runyon. With the bases loaded, he sent the struggling infielder to the plate.
“I go up and down the dug out saying this is fate and we couldn't write it any better than that,” Murphy said. “I just felt like she was the perfect person for that opportunity. Her demeanor is the best you can have for a hitter. Because most hitters fail 7 out of 10 times. You can't tell if she is 4-for-4 or 0-4. You couldn't tell good or bad what kind of day she is having. It was perfect for her. I just felt like she was going to do something.”
The rest was history as Runyon clubbed a grand slam that propelled the Tide into the Women's College World Series. It was also the start of seven days in her life that she will never forget.
“I just wanted to get it done,” Runyon said. “I didn't care about any other at-bat. Mentally, I just thought, 'whatever, it happens.' I just wanted to get at least one run in and hit the ball hard and let fate tell the rest."
Fate's head rose up again early Sunday morning in another elimination game against rival LSU. This time, she had an opportunity to bat in the seventh inning with a chance to tie the contest and keep the Tide's season alive.
Unfortunately for Runyon, the magic had run out. She grounded out to first base to end the contest. Alabama's season came to an end with a 5-3 loss to LSU. Runyon's week was over and almost like Cinderella, she and her teammates glass slippers had to be returned before they could claim the national championship.
“It's a tough situation to be in,” Runyon said. “You just want to pass the ball down the lineup. You don't necessarily think about being the hero, you just want to pass it down to the next person in the lineup. And unfortunately I didn't do it.
"But our goal every last inning is to get the tying run at the plate, and we did do that. I'm proud of every single person on the team, because we did do that and we met our goal there. And unfortunately it didn't fall our way.”
But Runyon was more concerned with her teammates who will not have another opportunity to wear the Crimson.
“I think the hardest thing is that not only especially the senior class, are they great ball players, they're great people,” Runyon said. “They're the true definition of an Alabama softball player. That's what we want. It's going to be a hard class to follow up.
"And not everybody thought we were going to be here, and what it came down to is our one heartbeat as a team and our motto that we've talked about for so long. And we all have each other's back, one through 18, and it was just a fun team to be a part of.”
In three games at the WCWS, Runyon was 2-10 at the plate with an RBI.
For Runyon to even have been in position to have the type of week she had was minor miracle.
“The starting third baseman, Peyton Grantham, tore her ACL on the last day of fall ball,” Murphy said. “Runyon wasn't really even supposed to play third. She was more of a second baseman, short stop. Both those were filled. So it's really unbelievable that she's gotten all these opportunities because poor Peyton tore her ACL. We say it all the time, be ready for an opportunity. This year she has run with that opportunity and done a hell of a job.”