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Alabama defeats Tennessee in longest NCAA softball super regional game

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Alabama softball kept its season alive behind a Kristen White RBI, defeating Tennessee, 3-2, in 14 innings in Game 2 of the Knoxville Super Regional at Sherri Parker Lee Stadium on Saturday. It was the longest NCAA super regional game of all time and the ninth to go 10-plus innings.

The 14-seeded Crimson Tide took an early 1-0 lead behind a Jenna Johnson RBI, but Tennessee was quick to tie the game in the second inning with a Laura Mealer RBI. The teams exchanged solo home runs in the fourth inning to tie the game 2-2, but White’s 14th-inning heroics with the bases loaded broke the tie as Alabama forced a winner-take-all Game 3, scheduled for Sunday.

The winner of the Knoxville Super Regional will punch a ticket to the Women’s College World Series. Alabama is looking to make its second straight trip to the WCWS and 15th in program history.

Here are observations and takeaways from Alabama (37-18) vs. Tennessee (44-11):

Kristen White RBI pushes Alabama softball past Tennessee in pitcher’s duel

After six scoreless extra innings, it was White who provided the winning play to score Lauren Johnson as Alabama claimed victory.

Pinch hitter Lauren Johnson hit a first-pitch leadoff single to start the bottom of the 14th inning off for Alabama. Riley Valentine then doubled down the left-field line to push Johnson to third. Tennessee intentionally walked Kali Heivilin to load the bases with the top of the order due up. White reached on a fielder’s choice as Johnson beat the tag at home plate and scored the game-winning run.

It was the first run scored since the fourth inning. Between both teams, a combined 28 runners had been left on base, 18 from Tennessee and 10 from Alabama.

Alabama’s first two runs came in the first and fourth innings. Jenna Johnson hit an RBI groundout to score White in the first, and Bailey Dowling hit a solo home run, her fourth of the season, in the fourth. Tennessee’s two runs came in the second and fourth innings behind an RBI single from Mealer and a solo home run by Sophia Nugent.

Jocelyn Briski, Kayla Beaver deliver from the circle

Freshman Jocelyn Briski got the nod in the circle after coming in for 1â…“ innings of relief for Kayla Beaver in Game 1.

Briski did not give up a run until the second inning, getting herself into some trouble by loading the bases with just one out behind Rylie West and Destiny Rodriguez singles and a five-pitch walk to Nugent. Koutsoyanopulos popped up to Dowling for the second out, but Mealer singled to left field to score West and tie the game. The one run was all Tennessee was able to score in the second after Heivilin tracked down a Kiki Milloy popup to end the inning.

Briski took Tennessee down in order in the third inning, but Nugent hit a solo home run in the fourth as Tennessee took its first lead of the day at 2-1. Briski finished the game going four innings, allowing two runs, both earned, off of five hits.

Beaver entered to pitch in the fifth inning, holding Tennessee scoreless over nine innings, giving up zero runs off of six hits, striking out four and walking four. Beaver threw 165 pitches after throwing 66 in Game 1 on Friday.

Kali Heivilin big defensive plays

Second baseman Heivilin came up with big plays for the Alabama defense.

In the top of the first inning, with Taylor Pannell on first with one-out, Heivilin fielded a McKenna Gibson groundout, tagging Pannell out on the basepath and getting Gibson out at first to turn the double play and end the half inning.

After Tennessee tied the game 1-1 in the top of the second and still had the bases loaded with two outs, Heivilin tracked down and caught a Milloy popup while colliding with Larissa Preuitt in the outfield to end the half inning and prevent anymore Lady Vols runs.

Heivilin nearly came up with another clutch play in the top of the ninth, diving to catch a Milloy single, but was unable to get the throw to first base in time.

LONGEST NCAA SOFTBALL GAMES: Tennessee-Alabama sets super regional record

What’s next?

With the win, Alabama forced a winner-takes-all Game 3 on Sunday. The winner punches its ticket to the Women’s College World Series.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY