TUSCALOOSA, Ala.— The Western Kentucky University softball team (42-17) earned its way to the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional championship game after defeating USC Upstate (42-11) 3-0 in the team’s second game on Saturday. The Lady Toppers fell to No. 10 national seed Alabama (44-13) 7-6 in the day’s early contest.
With the win, WKU goes on to face Alabama at 1 p.m. in the championship game with the “if necessary” game to follow at 3:30 p.m. The winner advances in the NCAA Softball Championship to face the winner of the Knoxville Regional in the Super Regional round.
Game One-Alabama 7, WKU 6
WKU had a tied game with defending national champion Alabama going to the bottom sixth, but the Crimson Tide pulled out a run in the frame to seal a 7-6 win.
Senior Katrina Metoyer and junior Amanda Thomas had a pair of hits each for WKU, but it was the bat of Metoyer that sparked the Lady Topper offense, as she notched five RBI to tie a career high set in 2011.
With her second complete-game of the Regional, junior Emily Rousseau (25-7) gave up eight hits and four earned runs while walking three and striking out one. Alabama’s Jackie Traina started the game, as she gave up seven hits and all six runs in five innings of work. Leslie Jury (18-7) took the win after pitching the final two innings with one hit allowed.
The Crimson Tide struck for two early runs in their first outing on offense. After opening the inning with a single to third, Kayla Braud swiped the next two bags before tacking on the game’s first run on a throwing error by the Lady Toppers. The miscue placed Haylie McCleney on third after she walked and stole second. Jadyn Spencer then put down a two-out RBI single for the frame’s final run.
Metoyer started her damage in the next two innings to give WKU a 5-2 lead. In the second inning, the California product sent a full-count pitch deep over the left field wall to score freshman Bethany Oglesby and tie the game at two apiece. In her following at-bat in the third inning, Metoyer again worked a full count before delivering a three-RBI triple past a diving Andrea Hawkins in right field and boosted the Lady Toppers to a 5-2 advantage.
A four-run third inning for Alabama diminished the WKU favor, as the host team took a one-run lead at 6-5. Back-to-back singles and an error allowed the Tide to load the bases with no outs. A walk and sacrifice fly cut WKU’s lead to 5-4. A RBI single from Hawkins and sacrifice fly by Braud added Alabama’s final two runs.
Senior Mallorie Sulaski led off the sixth with a single up the middle to set up the tying run for WKU. After moving to second on a Sadler sacrifice bunt, freshman Brooke Holloway came in to pinch run and made her way home after a sophomore Preslie Cruce chopper up the middle.
Alabama answered in the bottom frame, as a sacrifice fly to center field by Molly Fichtner gave the Tide the win at 7-6.
Game Two-WKU 3, USC Upstate 0
The Lady Toppers bounced back in the later game to take a 3-0 win over USC Upstate.
Sulaski (13-8) earned the win after allowing just two hits and three walks while striking out two. Spartans’ pitcher Anna Miller (6-2) pitched 4.2 innings with three hits given up while all three runs against her were unearned. Hannah Alexander closed the game with three hits allowed.
Sadler went 2-for-3 at the plate against the Spartans while adding a run. The top four of the WKU lineup—Cruce, junior Olivia Watkins, senior Ciara Garcia and junior Amanda Thomas—each had a hit each with Cruce and Watkins posting a run.
After three scoreless innings in the contest, Watkins opened the fourth with a single to center before recording her 38th stolen base of the season. Moving to third on a groundout, Watkins added the first run of the game after Miller committed a throwing error trying to get Watkins at the plate.
The lead increased in the fifth frame to 3-0, as Sadler hit a single through the left side with one out on the board. Cruce moved Sadler to third after a single to right and going to second on the throw. The pair then added the runs after two Upstate miscues in the same play.