The Alabama softball team claimed the Tuscaloosa Regional championship in impressive fashion as it raced past Chattanooga, 11-2, Sunday at Rhoads Stadium. With the win the Crimson Tide improve to 49-8 overall and have now won 23 straight at home and seven straight NCAA regional titles.
"I just want to say congratulations to Chattanooga on a great year," Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. "I thought Kelsi (Dunne) did a great job against a very good lineup, and we played great defense behind her. That first inning set the tone with (Jennifer) Fenton and (Kayla) Braud getting on. It was just full on from there"
Senior Kelsi Dunne (26-3) earned her second win of the regional on the strength of five shutout innings. The right-hander allowed one hit and struck out eight in the 84-pitch effort.
"I think it's fortunate that we play in a tough conference," Dunne said. "Our pitchers face good hitters all the time. They have good hitters, but our pitchers face good hitters all the time. As a result, we are mentally prepared when we face a good hitting team like today. We always have the same game plan to mix everything up, and that's what we did."
Senior Whitney Larsen once again paced the Tide at the plate with a 3-for-4 day, driving in two more runs and scoring twice. Junior Jennifer Fenton scored three runs, collected two hits and stole three bases while junior Amanda Locke drove in three, scored twice and tallied two hits.
On the strength of five stolen bases in the opening frame the Tide plated three runs to take the early 3-0 lead.
Sophomore Kayla Braud led off the game by getting hit by a pitch and then stole two bases, including home to score the first run of the game. Fenton reached on a slap single and then promptly stole second and third before being brought home on a ground out by Larsen. Locke rounded out the scoring in the first after she hit a double and later scored on a wild pitch.
Alabama doubled its lead with one swing of the bat as Locke hit a moon shot well over the scoreboard in left-center to give the Tide a 6-0 lead in the fifth. Fenton and Larsen, who scored on the play, started off the inning with back-to-back singles.
Larsen continued her torrid pace at the plate as she made the score 8-0 with a sharp single down the line in left to score Fenton. Fenton walked and then stole second before she was brought home for the second RBI of the game from Larsen.
Back-to-back RBI doubles increased the Tide lead to 10-0 in the sixth inning. Lunceford started it off with a double down the right field line to plate Larsen and then freshman Jackie Traina ripped a double off the wall in center to score Lunceford. Traina was then brought home on a bloop single by freshman Kaila Hunt to make the score 11-0.
On the weekend Alabama out-scored its opponents 26-3, while hitting .346 and pitching at a 1.17 clip. Larsen paced the Tide at the plate with a .700 (7-for-10) average, smacking a double, triple, and recording nine RBI. Dunne went 2-0 in the circle with a 0.64 ERA. The senior allowed one run on five hits and struck out 20 in 11 innings.