TUSCALOOSA — In the second game of the NCAA Softball Tuscaloosa Super Regional, Alabama needed only seven innings to oust Nebraska at Rhoads Stadium on Friday.
The Crimson Tide defeated the Cornhuskers 2-1 to claim the series and a spot in Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series after missing the cut in 2013. It’s Alabama’s ninth trip to the World Series.
“We knew it was going to be a battle, and it definitely was,” Tide coach Patrick Murphy said.
The Tide (50-11) will open play in Oklahoma City on Thursday, facing either Oklahoma or Tennessee.
The significance of getting over the hump and returning to Oklahoma City wasn’t lost on this team. There was a team dog pile as the players mobbed each other on the field and an ice bucket bath for Murphy.
“It’s not really about winning or losing,” Murphy said of the celebration. “It’s just about playing the right way, playing your hardest every single day and seeing them rewarded for that.”
Fewer than 18 hours after winning a marathon 6-5 game one in 12 innings, Alabama (50-11) clinched Game 2 when senior pitcher Jaclyn Traina forced a pop-up to foul territory on the first-base side of the field. Alabama scored its two runs in the top of the first inning while the Huskers plated one in the bottom of the second.
“Coming off a big win like that is definitely big for us especially in the momentum category,” Tide second baseman Kaila Hunt said. “You go that long and have our three freshmen come through like they did, that’s big for us to keep that with us and to carry that into the first inning. I think that winning that game was huge momentum for us.”
The biggest difference from the first game to the second — Traina. Nebraska’s bats got after Traina on Thursday and knocked her around. But on Friday, Traina (23-3) showed why she has made All-America every season at Alabama.
“I still had a lot of confidence in myself,” Traina said. “Days like yesterday happen. I just learned from it. All of the batters that I faced, I learned from that. We worked a lot of the off-speed in there today too so it kept them off balance.”
After allowing five runs and eight hits in just four innings of work Thursday, Traina rebounded strong Friday with five scoreless innings to close the game. The senior ace (23-3) earned the win behind a complete game, giving up just three hits and one run.
“It’s an attest to how much she just pushes through everything,” Hunt said. “She makes the ball move. Just from yesterday to today, she’s so good at letting stuff go and focusing on what’s going to happen today. She’s a great teammate. Just yesterday, whenever they scored those runs, I was like, ‘Just keep going at them Jac, because we’re going to score for you.’ She was like, ‘I know y’all got my back.’
“She’s going to have our backs when we need her to have our backs. We’re going to have her back when she needs us to have her back. If they score five runs, we just get six. If we only score two runs, she holds them to one run. That’s being a team.”
Nebraska’s Tatum Edwards (24-13) took the loss as the Cornhuskers’ season came to a close. Edwards also threw a complete game while allowing seven hits and two runs.
“To sum up what I feel about our group, this weekend is that we left it on the field,” Nebraska coach Rhonda Revelle said. “We left it on the field. Two really different ball games, but nonetheless, two very intense, down to the wire ball games.”
Sports Writer Marq Burnett: On Twitter @Marq_Burnett.