Alabama Softball ends season with 7-3 loss to Oklahoma

6/2/19 WSB vs Oklahoma WCWS
Photo by Robert Sutton

Crimson Tide Photos / UA Athletics

6/2/19 WSB vs Oklahoma WCWS \ Photo by Robert Sutton

James Benedetto, Assistant Sports Editor

OKLAHOMA CITY — There are no words to describe the finality of defeat. This is especially when that defeat lays as heavy as a season-ending, or rather a career-ending loss.

However, senior Caroline Hardy’s face said it all.

Hardy, along with freshman teammates Skylar Wallace and Montana Fouts, joined head coach Patrick Murphy to recap the final game of the 2019 season. For Hardy, she is one of four seniors that will never dawn the crimson and white jersey again. As the players settled into their chairs and reporters prepared their questions to ask, the room sat in an eerie silence.

For 35 seconds, no question was asked, no statements were made as the whole room sat still. As Murphy, Wallace and Fouts gazed elsewhere, Hardy sat with her head down and her arms crossed in front of her. As the moderator spoke, the Vestavia Hills, Alabama native looked up to the crowd of reporters as tears welled in her eyes and a frown came across her face.

These were the emotions that were shown after No. 1 Oklahoma defeated No. 8 Alabama 7-3 for the second time this week, securing its advancement to the Women’s College World Series championship.

The day began on the complete opposite end of the emotional spectrum for Hardy and the Crimson Tide. After batting through the loser’s bracket, Alabama faced another elimination game in a rematch with Oklahoma. A pitching duel set in early as both teams could not muster much offense in a scoreless tie until the bottom of the eighth inning. With a runner at second and two outs in the inning, Murphy called on Hardy to pinch hit for junior Elissa Brown. After the count ran full, Hardy pushed a base hit through the infield allowing freshman Kloyee Anderson to score from first to win the game in extra innings.

“The top for sure,” Hardy said when asked about where the walk-off hit ranks in her career. “I think I hit a home run against Auburn, that’s probably up there, too. Definitely today. That’s what you dream about doing. You dream about it as a little kid getting a walk-off hit, your team coming and doing a hug in the middle of the field.”

Along with all of her Alabama teammates, Hardy grinned from ear-to-ear as the team performed the “ALA-BAMA” cheer with the Crimson Tide fans.

“When [Hardy] hit that, I’m sure you noticed everybody on the team just went crazy,” Fouts said. “I think that’s what our team is about. No one cares who hit it. No one cares who was on first. It just happened. That’s what we were proud about on this team. The seniors have taught us everything. They demonstrate it every day.”

Alabama and Oklahoma would have a mere 45 minutes to change uniforms, swap dugouts and prepare for another winner-take-all game for a spot in the championship.

In the second game, the Sooner offense, which had been held to three runs in two games against Alabama, nearly doubled that total in the fifth and sixth innings combined. Up until that point, Oklahoma led 2-1 after senior Reagan Dykes hit a solo home run that cleared the left field fence.

Junior Krystal Goodman (11-1, 1.97 ERA), recovered after allowing two runs in the first inning as she did not allow a hit until the fifth inning. The hit she allowed proved to the back breaker as sophomore Jocelyn Alo, with two-out in the inning, sent an 0-1 pitch from Goodman to center field.

“I mean, I probably should have took [Goodman] out right before that,” Murphy said. “She struck out, I think, Clifton twice and Alo twice, which is two of the best hitters in the country, easily.”

The momentum swung completely into OU’s favor as although a two-run home run in the top of the sixth-inning by Skylar Wallace trimmed the lead to one, Oklahoma would re-establish control in the bottom of the sixth with another home run.

Alabama finished the season with 60 wins, the fourth time in program history to reach the mark, and is the first time since the 2012 national championship team. This was also the 12th time Alabama has appeared in the Women’s College World Series.

“I can’t think of a better way to go out than finishing with this group at the World Series,” Hardy said. “I think when Coach Aly [Habetz] hugged me at the end of the game, she said, ‘You’re going to be a champion in life.’ I think that’s what’s so important about women’s softball, is that when I take the jersey off for the last time, I’m fully prepared for that.”