Alabama softball falls in first game of College World Series


Alabama softball player Kali Heivilin (#22) makes a throw against Tennessee on Jun 1 at Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, OK. Courtesy of UA Athletics

Dean Harrell, Contributing Writer

Making its 14th appearance in the Women’s College World Series, the Alabama softball team began its tournament run on Thursday afternoon in Oklahoma City. However, the tournament got off to a rough start for the Crimson Tide as it lost its first game against the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. 

In a matchup that got out of hand fast, the Lady Volunteers were able to take control of the game and take a huge 10-5 victory.  

After a scoreless first inning, it seemed that the game might become a back-and-forth matchup. However, that assumption changed rather quickly. 

Tennessee cracked the game wide open in the bottom of the second inning. After a quick two outs, junior Giulia Koutsoyanopulos got a rally started after reaching first base off of an error. Following her, two doubles from sophomore Katie Taylor and junior Zaida Puni brought home two runs apiece, making it a 4-0 game.  

“This is the World Series, you can’t give them extra outs,” head coach Patrick Murphy said. “The margin for error is so slim. You just have to play clean the whole time.” 

Alabama found a way to respond in the third inning, putting up two runs. Following two walks, graduate student Ally Shipman ripped a single to left field to bring home graduate student Ashley Prange for the Crimson Tide’s first run of the game. Immediately after, freshman Kenleigh Cahalan also hit an RBI single to bring home junior Bailey Dowling, making it a 4-2 game. 

“Our team has grit, and everybody believes in one another, so I knew we were going to come back at some point and score runs when we needed them,” Cahalan said.  

Just as Alabama found some momentum, the Lady Volunteers returned fire in the bottom half of the third inning. Junior Rylie West led off the inning with a single to put a runner aboard for freshman Jamison Brockenbrough. With only one out, Brockenbrough drilled a two-run blast to extend Tennessee’s lead to 6-2.  

Even with the four-run lead, the Lady Volunteers tacked on another four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Sophomore McKenna Gibson began the scoring surge with an RBI double into right field to bring home senior Kiki Milloy. Right after Gibson, West drilled a three-run home run into deep left field to push Tennessee’s lead to a commanding 10-2 score. 

Down, but not out, the Crimson Tide needed a response to avoid the mercy rule finish in the fifth inning. Cahalan gave her team a needed boost with a two-out double into left field that brought home two runs. 

“She’s very steady; she’s not a very emotional kid, doesn’t get too high or too low,” Murphy said. “The game was on the line, and she comes up with an opposite field double. She’s got it in her; I think that was probably a key hit for her.” 

Adding onto the late rally, freshman Marlie Giles entered the game in the sixth inning to pinch hit for the Crimson Tide. Coming off the bench, Giles did her job and crushed a solo home run to left field to make it a 10-5 game.  

However, the late-game attempt to take momentum back ultimately fell short for Alabama, as it failed to scratch across a run in the seventh inning. The Lady Volunteers proceeded to take the 10-5 victory to start off the tournament, handing the Crimson Tide its first loss.  

Though it was a disappointing defensive performance from Alabama, as it tallied three total errors, veteran Prange knows her team can respond. 

“It is [a] game of failure, and it’s all about how you overcome on any given day on any given play,” Prange said. “Lauren [Esman] came up to me and she was like, ‘Hey, you’ve had my back all year. I got your back.’ I don’t doubt her for a second, and I don’t doubt anyone else on that field for a second.” 

Because of the double-elimination format of the Women’s College World Series, Alabama remains in the tournament and will face off against the loser of the Oklahoma Sooners vs. the Stanford Cardinal game on Friday at 6 p.m. CT.