OKLAHOMA CITY — An impromptu party in front of the dugout during a fourth-inning rain delay turned into a celebration that will last a long time for Alabama’s softball team.
The Crimson Tide turned the delay into the momentum that propelled them to a four-run inning, the key in their 5-4 win over Oklahoma in the deciding game of the NCAA championship series that ended early Thursday.
Jackie Traina threw a five-hitter and delivered a key RBI single, and Alabama became the first Southeastern Conference team to win an NCAA softball title. Alabama (60-8) is the first team from outside the Pacific-12 Conference to win the title since Michigan in 2005.
“It was a heck of a run for us,” said Alabama coach Patrick Murphy, who returned to the Crimson Tide last year just days after leaving Alabama to accept the head-coaching job at Louisiana State University. “It’s a dream come true for everybody at Alabama.”
Alabama won the national title in its eighth trip to the Women’s College World Series, succeeding where other SEC teams had failed. Alabama was the third SEC team to advance to the tournament’s championship series.
“Who wouldn’t want to be the first SEC team to win it?” Traina said. “That just makes it that much better.”
Traina gave up three home runs – two to Lauren Chamberlain, including one in the seventh inning – but fanned her Oklahoma counterpart, Keilani Ricketts, to end a game delayed almost three hours at the start because of a steady rain Wednesday night.
“It wasn’t our time,” said Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso, who guided the Sooners to the 2000 national title. “We know that. We know when it’s right. We’ll be back and it will be ours.”
Ricketts put Oklahoma (54-10) ahead in the second, curling a leadoff homer just inside the right-field foul pole. Chamberlain followed in the third with a homer to left field to give the Sooners a 3-0 lead, but then more rain began falling and Ricketts suddenly began struggling. After throwing just 10 balls in the first three innings, she had 15 – including four wild pitches – in the fourth.
Former Greenbrier standout Kaila Hunt opened the fourth by singling to left for Alabama, then scored on three wild pitches. After the third one, Gasso complained to the umpires that Ricketts (37-9) couldn’t properly grip the ball and they delayed the game – over Murphy’s protests.