It just takes something small, like the swing of a bat, to win a tightly contested softball game. If you combine that swing with a questionable call by the home plate umpire and you've got a recipe for advancing to the NCAA softball championship series.
Locked in a pitcher's duel, Alabama had a 1-0 lead over top-seeded Oregon in Oklahoma City on Sunday afternoon when the biggest play of the weekend happened. With two away in the bottom of the fifth, the Tide's Kaila Hunt drew a walk on six pitches. Molly Fichtner sent a 3-2 count into center field and Hunt, who went into motion at the pitch, stretched the play and headed for home.
The throw beat Hunt to the play but she was able to make an inside move around Oregon catcher Janelle Lindvall to beat the tag...or did she?
"I had a pretty good view", Oregon Head Coach Mike White said about the play, "obviously, I was in the camera well right there, and the ball clearly beat her by a long way. Got the tag on her. So if it was 50/50, it should be out, in my opinion. That's the way ‑‑ whenever the ball beats you, you should be out. I don't care how close it was, and I consider her out."
"It was 3‑2 and two outs and I was running on the pitch, and I took a peek and saw the ball was hit, but I didn't hesitate," Hunt said. "There was no hesitation and the catcher started to come across the plate, so I just tried to go to the inside. It was kind of awkward, because I usually try to go to the outside part of the plate. So I don't know, I haven't seen the replay but it felt pretty awkward."
When asked if she was safe at the plate, Hunt replied with, "I thought I was. Of course."
The run doubled Alabama's lead to 2-0 and with Jaclyn Traina mowing down Oregon batters from the circle it was almost an insurmountable deficit. She gave up just four hits all afternoon and fanned eight UO batters in her complete game shutout of the Ducks.
Bama will now face off against SEC foe Florida in the championship series that begins on Monday night. Along with Kentucky, the SEC was represented by three schools which was the most of any conference at the World Series.