Softball defeats Chattanooga to advance to regional final


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama left fielder Jenna Johnson (88) crosses the plate after hitting a home run in the Crimson Tide’s 6-2 victory over the Chattanooga Mocs on May 21 at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Blake Byler, Assistant Sports Editor

Live to fight another day.

After falling to Stanford in the winner’s bracket, No. 6 Alabama had its back against the wall heading into a win-or-go-home elimination game against Chattanooga just five hours after the loss.

The Crimson Tide (43-12) answered the challenge, defeating the Mocs (30-27) for the second time in the Tuscaloosa Regional, this time eliminating them from the tournament by a final score of 6-2.

Alabama was finally able to pick up consistent hits, recording seven in the game. The Crimson Tide batters continually put balls in play during key moments throughout the entire game, even if the at-bat resulted in an out.

“It was much better than the first game,” Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. “Believe me, that felt like 20 runs. Baby steps, we had some good execution.”

Sophomore Jaala Torrence (7-2) started in the circle for the rematch and did everything she needed to secure a win with the Crimson Tide defense working hard behind her as well. Torrence posted a final stat line of two runs allowed on six hits, with three walks and two strikeouts.

“I was just excited,” Torrence said. “I want to go all out for this team and do everything I can to help us win. I’m just really proud of this team.”

“I had complete faith in her,” Murphy said. “She had really good speed and she was right on her changeup. The changeup is the best it’s looked all year.”

After losing in shutout fashion earlier in the day, Alabama needed hits to rekindle some confidence. Junior Jenna Johnson did that and then some with a leadoff home run over the left field wall in the top of the first. It ignited the Crimson Tide dugout who sprinted to meet her at home plate.

“I said after the first game, ‘who wants to hit leadoff,’ and the first voice I heard was hers,” Murphy said. “When she said it she felt confident, and I could feel the confidence in her voice, so I said ‘let’s go.’”

The home run was Johnson’s fifth of the season, and her first while batting in the leadoff spot. She started the first 10 games of the season in the leadoff spot, but had not made a start there since March 20. It was the first time an Alabama batter has led off the game with a home run since first baseman Kaylee Tow did it at Texas A&M in March of 2019.

“It was a long day, but the crowd was into it, and we could feel their energy,” Johnson said. “I really wanted to get a run on the board for the team and I was able to do that. There’s no doubt I’ve had some offensive struggles recently, but it was all about fighting, keeping on working. I feel like that first hit today kind of opened the door.”

The Crimson Tide found some more offense in the third, uniquely without adding recording another hit, as junior Savannah Woodard was walked and then stole second. She was brought home after consecutive bunts from freshman Dallis Goodnight and Johnson, showing off her blazing speed sliding into home for Alabama’s second run.

The Crimson Tide loaded the bases for the first time in the fourth on a double by senior Ally Shipman and consecutive walks. Alabama only scored one run out of it, though, with a sac fly RBI from Woodard bringing home Shipman. The RBI was just Woodard’s fifth of the season as she has seen limited action, but she made her presence felt in her first start since April 19 scoring two runs herself to go along with the RBI.

Chattanooga finally scored its first run in the fourth due to a wild pitch from Torrence. Other than that, the Mocs were unable to put runners on base with any consistency.

Alabama poured on more in the sixth. Pinch hitting, freshman Jenna Lord placed a ball perfectly short of the Mocs’ center fielder for a two-run single, bringing home Woodard again as well as pinch runner Kat Grill. Shipman added an RBI of her own in the seventh as the bats stayed hot, which will be essential for the Crimson Tide if it wants to advance any further in the NCAA Tournament.

With the win, Alabama avoids elimination and will play in the regional final on Sunday. A rematch with Stanford awaits, and the Crimson Tide will have to beat the Cardinal in consecutive games to advance to the Super Regional.

The first game of the day was moved up to a 10 a.m. CT first pitch due to the threat of inclement weather.

“We’re playing for Kaylee Tow,” Murphy said. “It’s rare to have a team with only one senior, but we’re trying to prevent them from ending her career.”