Alabama softball blitzes Middle Tennessee in regional semifinal


Alabama softball player Jaala Torrence (#21) pitches against Middle Tennessee State on May 21 at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Courtesy of UA Athletics)

Dean Harrell, Contributing Writer

For day two of the college softball regionals in Tuscaloosa, the Alabama Crimson Tide faced off against the Middle Tennessee University Blue Raiders in the semifinal round. The Crimson Tide came out ready to play for its second game of the weekend and cruised to a 12-5 victory. 

A huge offensive showing in the third and fourth innings resulted in all the scoring that head coach Patrick Murphy’s squad needed to walk away victorious.  

Middle Tennessee got its bats going rather quickly as sophomore Laura Mealer delivered a huge home run over the center field wall to give her team the lead and some early momentum in the first inning. 

After a scoreless top half of the second inning from the Crimson Tide, the Blue Raiders were feeling the momentum and tacked on another run. Freshman Ansley Blevins drilled a solo home run over the center field wall to extend Middle Tennessee’s lead to 2-0. 

After a slow offensive start for Alabama, the bats were finally able to come alive in the third inning. With one out, back-to-back singles from sophomore Kali Heivilin and freshman Kristen White provided a couple baserunners for senior Jenna Johnson. Johnson hit a check swing grounder to second base that was bobbled, and the relay throw went over the head of the first baseman, causing White and Heivilin to score, tying the game up.  

Continuing the inning with two outs, a single from graduate student Ashley Prange, followed by a double by junior Bailey Dowling, brought home two more runs for the Crimson Tide to tie the game up at 4.  

The Blue Raiders, searching for a response, got what they hoped for in the bottom half of the third inning. Middle Tennessee was able to load the bases quickly, and a single, a walk and a sacrifice fly brought home three runs for head coach Jeff Breeden’s squad to take a 5-4 lead.  

However, this Alabama team did not go down without a fight. In the top of the fourth inning, the Crimson Tide pieced together a huge eight-run inning. Freshman Kenleigh Cahalan got everything started with a leadoff walk. Following her, Heivilin proceeded to crush a towering two-run home run over the left field wall to put the Crimson Tide ahead with a 6-5 lead.  

“Honestly, I was trying to put the ball in play. I know that once one person starts it, it’s going to keep going,” Heivilin said. “We have such a strong lineup from top to bottom, so once that one person starts it, it’s going to happen.” 

Keeping the inning alive, White singled and Johnson walked to put two runners on base. A sacrifice bunt by freshman Larissa Preuitt advanced runners to second and third to bring up Dowling. Being one of Alabama’s best hitters with runners in scoring position, Dowling was able to rip a single through the left side of the infield, bringing home Johnson and White to extend the lead to 8-5. 

“We felt unstoppable and that we weren’t going to get out,” Dowling said. “I feel like we passed the bat down really good. We were scoring runs back-to-back, and it was awesome. I think that was the first time we’ve really felt energized, and we weren’t going to give up the bat.” 

As if things could not get any worse for the Blue Raiders, three different pitchers walked three different batters with the bases loaded, bringing home three more runs for the Crimson Tide. To cap the inning off, a wild pitch allowed Cahalan to score, increasing the Alabama lead to 12-5. 

After scoreless fifth, sixth and seventh innings, Alabama was able to maintain its commanding lead and take the victory.