Only one win separated Alabama and the Women’s College World Series on Friday night, but Texas had other plans. Overcoming a rough start, the Longhorns came back to win Game 2 of the Tuscaloosa Super Regional, 7-5, to force a deciding Game 3 on Saturday.
Early on, it looked like the first year of the Mike White era was coming to a close. Star pitcher Miranda Elish was off. She couldn’t hit the corners, find her spots or get outs. Elish’s struggles resulted in three first inning runs for the Crimson Tide.
Then, Elish’s night went from bad to worse.
In the top of the second, catcher Mary Iakopo tried to throw out a runner heading to second base. However, the ball never made it to second base. Instead, it struck Elish in the face. Rhoads Stadium, which had been alive and roaring, instantly went silent. After several minutes on the ground, Elish left the field under the assistance of team officials.
According to a Longhorn spokesperson, Elish was “doing well and was taken to the ER as a precaution.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Miranda Elish,” head coach Mike White said. “She’s going to be OK. We just have to run some more tests and see what happens from there.”
With Elish exiting the game, Shealyn O’Leary stepped in to take over pitching duties. She struggled at first, clearly shaken from the incident that had just taken place.
Immediately after, freshman infielder McKenzie Parker recorded an error on a throw to first. Texas’ 12th error of the postseason allowed Alabama to score again, making it a 4-0 game.
Then, the Texas-sized comeback commenced. Catcher Mary Iakopo kicked off the 7-0 run in the bottom of the third with a three-run homer, capitalizing on a pitch high in the zone.
“It was a game changer,” Iakopo said. “(We) just flipped a switch and we knew we were in the ballgame.”
Still down one after the inning, the Longhorns took control in the fourth with the help of a solo home run by outfielder MK Tedder and an Crimson Tide error, putting them up 6-4. Their final run came from an RBI groundout via third baseman Shannon Rhodes.
As a collective group, Texas rallied around their pitcher. Iakopo said she couldn’t stop thinking about Elish.
“Our pitchers have gotten us this far, and we’ve kind of choked on them,” Iakopo said. “(We were) doing it for the pitchers and Miranda specifically.”
The offensive explosion couldn’t have come at a better time for the Longhorns. They went nine consecutive innings without a run. Now, they have a chance to be one of the final eight teams standing.
Texas faces Alabama on Saturday at 1 p.m. The winner will move onto the Women’s College World Series.