Alabama softball survives Middle Tennessee State, advances to NCAA super regional

Alabama softball survives Middle Tennessee State, advances to NCAA super regional

All season long, Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy said his team just needed a little longer to find a rhythm. It held true in the regular season as the Crimson Tide sorted out its lineup. It held true in the Southeastern Conference tournament as Alabama managed a run to the semifinals.

And on Sunday, Murphy’s analysis was proven right once again. An Ally Shipman swing and bat flip — though it was more of a bat spike on a second look — gave Alabama a lead in the top of the seventh inning.

“I really was just trying to hit a line drive. We were popping up a lot and I was just like, ‘Cut the ball in half. Cut the ball in half.’ It ended up going out,” Shipman said.

The 1-0 win sent the Tide to the NCAA super regional, which takes place next weekend as the Crimson Tide got one step closer to its first national championship since 2012. It’s the 17th time in 18 years that Alabama made it to the second round, a welcome return after Stanford shocked Rhoads Stadium last year.

It relied on the right arm of Jaala Torrence and a few standout performances at the plate like Shipman (4 RBI) and Kali Heivilin (5 RBI and two home runs). Torrence allowed no runs across 18.2 innings in three games and struck out 18 batters. The junior delivered the first two seven-inning shutouts of her career to bookend the weekend.

Playing without Montana Fouts — who warmed up during both games on Sunday and Murphy confirmed was available if needed — Alabama beat LIU on Friday, rallied in the middle innings against MTSU on Saturday and survived a winner-take-all game on Sunday afternoon.

“It feels really good to be back (in the super regional) because it’s almost like that’s where we’re supposed to be.” Murphy said. “…I felt so lost after regionals last year. I didn’t know what the hell to do. I don’t know what people do now. I’m very happy that we’re back for the next weekend. It’s not going to get any easier but it feels like we’re in the right spot. Alabama softball belongs in a super regional.”

MTSU won its opening game over Central Arkansas, 5-0, but fell to the Tide, 12-5, on Saturday. Behind pitcher Gretchen Mead, Middle Tennessee State beat Central Arkansas once again to make the finals. Mead faced the Tide on Sunday and allowed just five base runners in a 4-1 loss to force another contest.

They beat left-hander Lauren Esman, who was making her weekend debut in the circle. She struggled with the top of the lineup and Laura Mealer smashed her second home run in as many days. Meanwhile, the Alabama offense struggled with runners in scoring position. They had runners on second and third with no outs in the bottom of the fourth but just managed one run.

Both managers went with a new starter for game two and Torrence delivered a pitching duel along with Kamryn Carcich. They traded zeros on the scoreboard and yielded six base runners in the first five innings. MTSU coach Jeff Breeden and Shipman agreed that Torrence was throwing harder than she did the day prior when she pitched 4.2 innings and struck out five.

The wind grew stronger as the day went on and multiple balls driven high and deep ran out of power at the warning track. During UA practices the team jokingly referred to an iron curtain in left field that blocked home runs. But it seemingly dropped right before Shipman’s blast. Postgame, Murphy said he knew Shipman’s hit was the one that’d carry past the fence.

“She shortened up,” Murphy said. “She showed slap and no-doubter. The other ones it was right off the bat there was just a little bit of doubt. …There was a lot of them that were hit 198 feet, 199 feet, 197 feet. It died on the warning track. I’m glad she got hers.”

Alabama will now play No. 12 Northwestern, which rallied to beat Miami (Ohio) to advance out of the Evanston Regional.

Nick Alvarez is a reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @nick_a_alvarez or email him at

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