Bases-loaded double play saves Alabama
It appeared for a time that Alabama's Jaclyn Traina would top all of Thursday's one-hitters in the Women's College World Series and throw just the second no-hitter in the past seven iterations of the event.
Unquestionably throwing as hard as she ever has, and quite possibly throwing as well or better than she ever has, Traina worked into the sixth inning without allowing a hit against the Wildcats. It was a performance that led Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson to label her the best pitcher in college softball at the moment.
But the no-no wasn't to be, broken up by a Sylver Samuel single.
Instead, after the Wildcats loaded the bases with three consecutive singles in the seventh inning, Traina watched her defense provide an ending that, while such information isn't kept as part of the official historical record, may well be even more rare. A game-ending, bases-loaded double play to preserve the 2-0 win.
Had Alabama shortstop Danae Hays, second baseman Kaila Hunt and first baseman Leona Lafaele combined for the first out but not the second, Alabama's lead would have shrunk to 2-1 with runners on first and third and two outs.
Had Hays rushed the throw to second, as she appeared to in the previous day's game on a difficult play for which she was charged an error, or had Hunt thrown wide of the mark to first, the game would have been tied.
Instead, the game was over.
In a World Series that has seen some botched plays take the drama out of possible upsets, one of the favorites provided the most dramatic ending thus far by doing what it was supposed to do on that side of the ball.
"The three things in postseason softball, to me, are you've got to have a good starting pitcher, and Jackie did her job. The key hit, Leona did her job. But the third thing, if you've got to play great team defense, and Danae Hays and Kaila Hunt finished the game off. I don't think anyone expected that."
Lafaele had the starring role in the game's only run-scoring play: a two-run home run off an otherwise, and yet again, impressive Kelsey Nunley. But her supporting role in the final play, stretching low to collect the relay throw from Hunt, was what had her giddy with excitement when the game was over.
"I don't care if I have to do the splits for that ball, you finish the play," Lafaele said of her thoughts. "I don't care if it was in the dirt, I was going to get the ball."