Friday night Alabama softball hosted the opening round of the NCAA Tournament for the 18th straight time, defeating Long Island University 5-0, led by an outstanding pitching performance from Jaala Torrence.
Alabama was without their ace Montana Fouts Friday night as she was on the sidelines wearing a brace on her left knee, recovering from a hyperextended leg that she suffered in last weekend’s SEC Tournament. With Fouts on the bench, Alabama called on Jaala Torrence to take the circle and Torrence delivered with one of, if not the best game of her career.
Torrence struck out five in seven scoreless innings, setting a season-high in strikeouts and throwing the first complete game of her career, scattering four hits. After giving up a double in the second inning, right fielder Larissa Preuitt made a diving catch and was able to double off the runner on second to end the scoring chance for the Sharks. Having not started a game in over two months, Torrence was in complete control, with the only shaky point in the sixth inning when the Sharks were able to put runners on the corners with two outs before Torrence forced an inning-ending ground out to end the threat.
Back-to-back doubles with two outs in the first inning from Ashley Prange and Bailey Dowling produced the game's first run for the Crimson Tide, and that run would prove to be all that was needed for Alabama. Alabama would add on some insurance runs by way of a couple of home runs, sophomore Kali Heivilin hit a two-run shot over the left field fence in the second inning, and senior Ally Shipman also hit a two-run home run coming in the sixth inning to put the game out of reach with the score 5-0.
Alabama had all three phases of the game working Friday night, pitching, hitting, and defense. With Montana Fouts sidelined with no definite return, the Crimson Tide will need to continue to have all three working if they want to make it back to the Women’s College World Series.
"There are three keys to winning in postseason softball,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. “You need a good start from your pitcher to give you a chance to win, and Jaala [Torrence] was great tonight. You need strong team defense and we made some plays out there with [Larissa] Preuitt, [Kenleigh] Cahalan and [Ashley] Prange. Thirdly, you need the key hit. It was nice to score in the first inning with two outs, we've been harping on that for months. Three of the five runs came with two outs. That was a good opening round win."
Alabama is set to play Middle Tennessee on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the winner’s bracket. If the Crimson Tide wins they will advance to Sunday, just one win away from the Super Regionals, if Alabama loses to Middle Tennessee, they would face either Central Arkansas or LIU in an elimination game Saturday night.
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