Reprinted here in its entirety.
TUSCALOOSA — For four and a half innings, an underdog Jacksonville State team
kept everyone in the Alabama Softball Complex wondering whether the teams on the
field would be playing into the night for a spot in the NCAA Super Regionals.
The Gamecocks led with nine outs to go, but even then JSU coach Jana McGinnis
knew her team was sitting on a ticking time bomb.
Alabama's bats finally came to life in the fifth inning and washed the
Gamecocks out to sea in their wake. The Tide got three consecutive homers for
the first time in school history and went on to claim a 4-1 victory to win the
Tuscaloosa Regional of the NCAA softball tournament.
The Tide (54-6), the national No. 3 seed and a 10-1 winner against JSU on
Friday, will play either Missouri or Iowa in the super regionals here next
"With Alabama, you can never get comfortable," McGinnis said. "I think that's
what you've got to try to keep them out of, the big inning.
"I thought Ashley (Eliasson) was great through four innings. She was working
her corners and controlling them very well, keeping the hitters off-balance, but
in the fifth inning she lost her corners. Alabama's a great hitting team; you
put three-fourths of the ball over the plate, they're going to hit it solid and
drive it deep like they did."
The Gamecocks (40-16) impressed a stadium and ESPN national audience with
solid play early. They even took a 1-0 lead on Kayla Collins' solo homer in the
fifth before Alabama's Lauren Parker, Ashley Holcombe and Whitney Larsen — the
Nos. 7, 8 and 9 hitters in its lineup — hit their game-breaking consecutive
homers in the bottom of the inning.
"Nine outs ... that's a marathon," McGinnis said. "Although we were up 1-0, I
knew our defense and our pitchers still had the longest road of their career up
to this point against Alabama.
"Alabama's hitters are so deadly, they're so explosive. One through nine,
they're the most solid Alabama team that I have seen in several years. Going
against them you're always sitting there on pins and needles. They're a very
Dani Woods started the decisive rally by reaching on an error charged to JSU
shortstop Mary Beth Ledbetter.
Ledbetter had been instrumental in keeping the Tide off the bases, flawlessly
fielding a half dozen chances to that point. But she turned away from Woods' hot
shot and the ball wound up in left field.
"It was hit pretty hard, but I just took my head off it and tried to backhand
it instead of getting in front," Ledbetter said. "It wasn't very smart. I
should've got in front of it and stopped it at least."
After the Tide failed to execute a sacrifice that left coach Patrick Murphy
to wonder if this wasn't going to be his team's day, Parker followed with a deep
homer to right to give the Tide the lead. Holcombe and Larsen then followed with
attempts to knock down the scoreboard.
Holcombe ripped her homer off a spot near the scoreboard clock, and Larsen
followed that with a shot off the big Alabama logo on the left side of the
"That was hard to watch, but there was nothing I could really do about it
once it already happened," Eliasson said. "You just try to make the best out of
the next at-bat. When it happens three times in a row, there's nothing you can
Parker, a second baseman relegated to a designated player's role in the
second half of the season by injuries (most notably cartilage damage in her left
shoulder), broke an 0-for-16 slump with her homer. She had gone hitless since
April 6, when she had three hits against LSU.
Holcombe broke an 0-for-17 slump when she homered against the Gamecocks on
"This is the best she's looked since last year," Murphy said of Parker. "It
was like the old swing. She looks as normal as she has in a long time."
Melissa Dowling relieved the freshman Eliasson after the Larson homer. The
Tide proceeded to load the bases against her with two singles and a walk, but
she got out of it with a foul pop and liner to second.
In all, the Tide sent 10 batters to the plate in the inning.
Up to that point, the game was a pitching duel between two freshmen.
Alabama's Kelsi Dunne (24-4) held the Gamecocks to two hits through the first
four innings, while Eliasson (16-5) was working on a one-hitter before the Tide
chased her in the fifth.
Dunne remained in the game and finished with a three-hitter and 10
strikeouts. Seven of the punch-outs came among JSU's No. 2 through 6 hitters.
"I knew coming into the game I was going to have to bring my all, because
last game (against Alabama) I knew I could pitch better than I had," Eliasson
said. "I knew if I mixed it up more and worked my corners, then I'd be able to
hold them for a while."
But it all went boom in the fifth.
About Al Muskewitz
Al Muskewitz covers golf and Jacksonville State
University sports teams for The Anniston Star.
See story at The Anniston Star's website: www.annistonstar.com