TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama was behind early, but a pair of big home runs by Peyton Grantham and Jadyn Spencer ultimately powered the Crimson Tide to a 6-2 victory over Oklahoma in the opening game of the 2014 Women’s College World Series.
“I was worried after the early Oklahoma home run,” said Head Coach Patrick Murphy. “I thought the crowd would really get into it. After that though, it was all Jaclyn Traina. I thought she did a really good job against a very good hitting team. They’re dangerous. They take their cuts and every time they swing, you hold your breath.”
This is Alabama’s (51-11) third-straight appearance in the Women’s College World Series where the Tide has won its opening game. The home runs by Grantham and Spencer make this Alabama’s fourth multi-homer game of the NCAA Tournament, with two of Grantham’s three hits over that same span clearing the fence. Fellow freshman Marisa Runyon drove in Alabama’s first run of the game, giving her a NCAA Tournament average of .438 (7-16) with four RBI.
“Our freshmen have been coming through for us these past few weeks,” said Murphy. “They did it again tonight. Runyon and Peyton both did it. It’s a great start to the 2014 Women’s College World Series.”
With the win, Jaclyn Traina (23-3) brings her career total to 104 wins, tying for seventh in SEC history with former Georgia pitcher Michelle Green (2002-05). Oklahoma (50-12) hit a solo home run in the first inning, but that would end up as the only hit of the game for the Sooners. Kelsey Stevens (37-9) took the loss in the circle, throwing 4.1 innings with five earned runs off seven hits.
With two outs in the top of the first, Oklahoma’s Shelby Pendley took a 3-1 pitch over the left-field fence to put the Sooners on the board first, 1-0. Traina bounced back from the solo homer with a strikeout to end the top of the first. Alabama could not even the score in the bottom-half of the inning, as the Tide was sat down in order.
Kaila Hunt drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the second to give Alabama its first baserunner of the game and Molly Fichtner followed with the Tide’s first hit of the game, dropping a single into shallow left field. Both runners advanced into scoring position off a failed pickoff attempt and Runyon battled through an 11-pitch at-bat to pull a ball down the right-field line that just stayed fair, allowing Hunt to score and tie the game at 1-1 with nobody out and runners at the corners. Alabama couldn’t take the lead however as a popup and a pair of strikeouts stranded runners at the corners to keep the score tied at 1-1.
With two out and a runner at first in the top of the fourth, a throwing error allowed the Oklahoma lead runner to reach second base safely to put two on with two away. The pair pulled a double steal in the following at-bat and Alabama had the runner at first caught in a rundown, but an errant throw sent the ball into the outfield and allowed the lead runner to come home, pulling the Sooners ahead 2-1 with a runner at second and two away. A strikeout limited the damage, but the Tide now trailed 2-1.
Alabama threatened early in the bottom of the fourth, as Hunt and Fichtner led off the half-inning with back-to-back singles. After a fly out put one out on the board, Grantham followed with a towering three-run homer towards the scoreboard in left-center to put the Tide up, 4-2. Leona Lafaele nearly made it back-to-back homers but a long fly ball just died on the warning track for out number two and a popup ended the rally, but Alabama was now in the driver’s seat, leading 4-2.
Jadyn Spencer gave Alabama some insurance in the bottom of the fifth, scorching a line-drive homer into left-center to score two and pump the Tide’s lead up to 6-2. That ended Stevens’ outing in the circle as third baseman Shelby Pendley entered to pitch for the Sooners. The reliever got Oklahoma out of the inning with a strikeout but Alabama was now up by four runs, leading 6-2.
The score remained the same heading into the top of the seventh inning, as Alabama was three outs away from a win in its opening game of the Women’s College World Series. Traina erased any chance of late drama as a pair of strikeouts and a high fly ball sat the Sooners down in in order to give Alabama the 6-2 victory.
With the win, Alabama will advance to play Kentucky (50-17) on Friday, May 30 at 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2.