Tennessee Headed To College World Series Title Game After 4-1 Win Over Aggies

Dan Fleser: Bama Does 'Whatever It Takes' To Even Up Series With Lady Vols

  • Sunday, May 26, 2024
Dan Fleser
Dan Fleser

Patrick Murphy summed up a long afternoon of softball that stretched into early evening with a short, pithy phrase.

“Gritty not pretty”

It’s a phrase the Alabama team has embraced and their coach explained the subtext as being “whatever it takes.

In this case, it required 14 innings – the longest game in NCAA Super Regional history in terms of both innings and time (4 hours, 35 minutes) – for Murphy’s Crimson Tide to beat host Tennessee 3-2. Leadoff hitter Kristen White, who has been tormenting the Lady Vols all weekend, slapped a bases-loaded chopper and freshman Lauren Johnson, who had reached base on a leadoff pinch-hit single, beat UT shortstop Laura Mealer’s throw home to score the winning run.

Since Alabama (37-18) was the home team, a joyful celebration convened on the field behind first base. The weekend series is now tied and the teams will play at 4 p.m. Sunday at Lee Stadium for a trip to the Women’s College World Series.

“That should’ve been a national championship game,” said Murphy, who also added: “It’s a pity somebody had to lose. What a game.”

But Tennessee (44-11) did lose and afterward was trying to maneuver past the mountain of regret reflected by the 18 baserunners left stranded on base. The Lady Vols twice left the bases loaded. Just one more hit somewhere, anywhere could’ve inspired their own celebration.

“Our goal was to keep throwing punches,” UT’s Kiki Milloy said. “It was a matter of who was going to come out on top. Unfortunately, it was them.”

As the sun began to set on the day, UT coach Karen Weekly practiced some damage control by reminding the players that the same hadn’t happened to their season.

“We knew this was going to be hard,” she said.

Saturday was especially demanding for pitchers Karlyn Pickens of Tennessee and Alabama’s Kayla Beaver. They duked it out in relief over the final 10 innings. Pickens threw 129 pitches while Beaver logged 165. Both said they will be available on Sunday but neither coach laid out any specific pitching plans.

Beaver was very pointed, though, with a postgame comment.

“This game happened for a reason,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what this team does tomorrow.”

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Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who has covered University of Tennessee athletics since 1988. He is a member of the Tennessee Sportswriters and the U.S. Basketball Writers Halls of Fame. He can be reached at danfleser3@gmail.com.

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