Alabama players are perfectly aware of their conference’s lack of a softball national championship, and they admit that bringing one home for the SEC would be great.
But they don’t want to put extra pressure on themselves by hoisting the whole SEC on their backs and “playing for” the conference.
The No. 3 Crimson Tide secured their school’s first spot in the Women’s College World Series’ best-of-3 championship series by beating top-seeded California 5-2 Sunday.
Alabama (58-7) will face Oklahoma at 7 p.m. Monday in Game 1 of the series at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium.
“It would be cool to say we’re the first SEC team, but it’s not something that we’re playing for,” said sophomore shortstop Kaila Hunt.
“We say we’re going to play Alabama softball ... if you go in and you try to play for something that’s maybe bigger than yourself, you’ll get yourself in trouble.”
The SEC has now put a team in the championship series in four of the last six seasons.
“We’d love to do that; we’d love to bring it home to our conference and show we have the power,” said senior catcher Kendall Dawson. “But we’re just going to stick with our game.”
That strategy has worked just fine all season, and Sunday, Alabama won with its signature power and solid pitching from sophomore Jackie Traina.
Alabama opened the scoring Sunday with Traina’s solo home run in the second inning. The Crimson Tide added a score the next inning, when Hunt singled home Kayla Braud.
Cal third baseman Danielle Henderson evened the score at 2 with a two-run homer in the fourth, but Alabama quickly regained the lead in the bottom half of the inning.
Hunt added a solo home run in the fifth inning, and senior Jazlyn Lunceford also homered in the sixth.
Alabama’s three home runs Sunday bring its team total for the season to 97, just one less than Oklahoma’s NCAA-leading 98.
In the circle, Traina improved to 40-2 with her two-hit performance, becoming the first pitcher in school history to win 40 games in a season.
“Definitely going to be fun,” Traina said of the matchup with Oklahoma. “Both teams got here because we’re very good; we’re very competitive.
“Who doesn’t want to play against a great team? I just can’t wait for it.”