OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Alabama defeated Arizona 2-0 in a Women’s College World Series elimination game on Saturday night, ending the Wildcats’ season.
Arizona (48-14) loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but couldn’t capitalize. Hanah Bowen lined out hard to Bailey Hemphill for the third out, and Alabama escaped without allowing a run.
“I don’t know why, I had a gut feeling she was going to hit it in the 3-4 hole,” Hemphill said. “I kind of cheated a little bit that way. It was placed right. I was able to catch it.”
Alabama left the bases loaded in the top of the seventh, giving the Wildcats a chance.
Arizona’s Rylee Pierce launched a ball deep to right field, but Alabama’s K.B. Sides caught it at the warning track for the first out, and the Crimson Tide eventually held on for the shutout.
“If she doesn’t catch it or if it goes out, who knows what happens,” Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. “They have all the momentum. They’re excited. Big catch up against the fence. Between her and Bailey’s play, I think those were two of the biggest defensive ones for us.”
Arizona, which has eight national titles, reached the World Series for the first time since 2010. Coach Mike Candrea feels there is a bright future ahead. The Wildcats had just one senior in the batting lineup.
“It’s a journey to get here,” Murphy said. “I’m very proud of this team, like I told them. There’s a lot for them to be very proud of. Number one, getting us back to the College World Series. Number two, it’s hard to understand the experience here until you’ve been through it.”
Murphy turned things over to freshman Montana Fouts in the most important game of the season, and she came through.
Fouts pitched a complete-game shutout while striking out nine and only allowing three hits.
“I think it starts with Montana, where she’s fearless,” Murphy said. “She’s a freshman, but you would never know it. She’s very resilient. She’s never nervous. Just a really gritty kid.”
Hemphill, who set school single-season records for home runs and RBIs in the earlier win over Florida, doubled against Arizona in the third inning to knock in the game’s only two runs.
“I think any time you score first, you set the tone of the game,” she said. “When we came out and scored before them, the momentum was our way. We kind of just kept it the whole game, didn’t really give it back to them.”
Alabama (59-9) advanced to play top-seeded Oklahoma in the semifinals on Sunday. The Crimson Tide will have to defeat the Sooners twice, while the Sooners only need one win to advance to the championship series.