As the Crimson Tide embarks on its 2020 campaign, Rhoads Stadium celebrates its 20th season as the home of Alabama softball. With improvements including a new clubhouse, new bullpens and a new concourse for fans to enjoy, The Crimson White took a look back at the top 20 moments in the history of Rhoads Stadium.
20. WELCOME HOME
On Feb. 23, 2000, Alabama softball played its first game at its new home, Rhoads Stadium. After a coronation of fireworks prior to the game, the Crimson Tide offense set off its own fireworks with a six-run sixth inning, clinching a 7-1 victory over in-state rival UAB. Shelley Laird picked up the first win while four-time NFCA All-American Kelly Kretschman and Ginger Jones tallied two hits apiece.
19. SEND IN STEPH
With four-time Louisville Slugger/NFCA First Team All-American and future USA Olympian Monica Abbott starting in the circle for Tennessee on March 13, 2004, Alabama faced one of its toughest tests at Rhoads Stadium. However, pitcher Stephanie VanBrakle – who is now the team’s pitching coach under the name Stephanie VanBrakle Prothro – came through for the Crimson Tide, striking out 11 batters and hitting a walk-off home run to defeat the Lady Vols, 4-3.
18. OSORIO’S OUTS
In Alabama’s fourth game of the Easton Bama Classic on March 10, 2018, Alexis Osorio made history. In a 7-2 victory over Fordham, Osorio recorded 21 strikeouts, which tied an NCAA record. Originally set by Cal’s Michele Granger in March 1991, the 21 Ks still stands as the program record for most strikeouts recorded in a single game.
17. SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
In her final season in a Crimson Tide uniform, Kretschman was having a career season, leading Alabama in every hitting statistic. Near the end of her 13-homer senior season, Kretschman hit her final home run at Rhoads Stadium in a 3-2 win over Mississippi State on April 21, 2001. She finished her career with 60 home runs, a program record that still stands today.
16. TAMING GA TECH
After the best start in program history was thwarted by Texas A&M, Alabama returned to Rhoads Stadium for a midweek matchup with Georgia Tech on March 27, 2019. It seemed that the Crimson Tide was on its way to its second loss of the season, as the Yellow Jackets took an early two-run lead into the bottom of the fifth inning. But after a single and two walks, Claire Jenkins hit the first pitch she saw over the left-field wall for a grand slam. It would be all the team would need in a 4-3 victory.
15. DON’T STEAL FROM DYKES
In the Crimson Tide’s second game of regional play, catcher Reagan Dykes came into the game against Arizona State on May 18, 2019, tied for the career record for most runners caught stealing. After committing a throwing error that allowed a run to score, Dykes caught the strikeout pitch and then rifled the ball to second base for the inning-ending out and the team record. Dykes finished her career with 57 runners caught stealing, and the record-breaking play was a momentum changer for Alabama, which came back to win, 7-4.
14. JOSTLING JAX STATE
Vying for its sixth appearance in the Women’s College World Series, Alabama needed to pick up two wins against Jacksonville State, a team that recorded 43 wins in its winningest season in program history. On May 23, 2009, Kelsi Dunne pitched back-to-back no-hitters to send Alabama to Oklahoma City. In the Crimson Tide’s pair of 9-0 victories, Dunne recorded seven strikeouts and walked just one batter in each game. The performance tied the NCAA record for consecutive no-hitters in postseason play.
13. AND THE CROWD GOES WILD
In front of 4,015 fans – the largest crowd ever at Rhoads Stadium – Alabama won the final game of a weekend series against Auburn on May 7, 2017. After the Crimson Tide tied the game with an RBI single by Gabby Callaway, Marisa Runyon increased the lead with a two-run double to left-center field. The lead would be plenty for Alexis Osorio, who allowed two earned runs on three hits and struck out 14 batters in her 20th win of the season.
12. GRAND OL’ MURPHY
In Alabama’s opening game of its second home tournament, the Crimson Tide defeated Boston College, 6-3 on March 10, 2018. The win was a major milestone for coach Patrick Murphy, as it was his 1,000th win at Alabama. After being doused in orange Gatorade by Chandler Dare, Murphy explained the milestone with just two simple words of relief: “Thank God.”
11. GOING BACK TO OKC
After Dunne’s back-to-back no-hitters in 2009, Alabama once again needed two wins to secure a spot in Oklahoma City. This time, however, the team was facing elimination as Super Regional play resumed on May 27, 2011. Alabama run-ruled Stanford in the first game of its doubleheader. The second game was scoreless into the bottom of the sixth, when Cassie Reilly-Boccia sent a triple down the right-field line to allow Jackie Traina to score from first. Traina would shut the door in the top of the seventh, sending Alabama to its seventh trip to the Women’s College World Series.
10. RISING FROM THE DESTRUCTION
It would take almost a month for Alabama to return to the field at Rhoads Stadium after the tornadoes that impacted Tuscaloosa in April 2011. On May 20, 2011, the Crimson Tide run-ruled Jackson State, 8-0, in its first game of the Tuscaloosa Regional. Traina was dominant, with only one batter reaching first on an error. She finished her no-hit performance with no walks and nine strikeouts on 56 pitches.
9. THE CATCH 2.0
In the opening round of the Tuscaloosa Regional on May 16, 2014, Alabama’s offense dominated in a 13-3 run-rule victory over SIUE. Although the offensive output is memorable, the game is more fondly remembered for a defensive play. With two out in the second inning, as a fly ball was hit toward left-center field, three-time NFCA First Team All-American Haylie McCleney sprinted to her right and laid out to make the catch.
8. THE 12-INNING MARATHON
Just seven days after McCleney’s catch against SIUE, Alabama was in another memorable postseason game against Nebraska on May 23, dubbed the “12-Inning Marathon.” After trailing by a run heading into the seventh inning, Runyon hit a one-out home run to center field to tie the game at five. For the next five innings, the two teams would combine for just five hits until Peyton Grantham stepped to the plate. At 12:27 a.m., Grantham ended the game with a solo home run to left-center field. It is the longest game in Alabama history, lasting nearly four and a half hours.
7. THE CATCH
McCleney made a myriad of memorable plays, but none is as memorable as the diving catch in a series sweep against LSU on March 29, 2014. With a runner on first, a fly ball was popped into shallow right field. Just as it seemed that the ball was going to drop for a base hit, McClenney dove to make the grab. The catch became so widely recognized that it ranked No. 4 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 list. A picture of the catch depicting McCleney in mid-air now resides along the center-field wall.
6. HOME RUNYON
For Alabama to make a return trip to Oklahoma City in 2015, the Crimson Tide had to defeat the Oklahoma Sooners for the second straight year. After the Sooners took Game 1, Alabama tied the series to force a pivotal Game 3. Oklahoma took a two-run lead into the bottom of the sixth after a solo home run by Lauren Chamberlain. With two outs and the bases loaded, Runyon hit a grand slam to right field, securing the Crimson Tide’s 10th trip to the Women’s College World Series.
5. MAKING HISTORY
In Murphy’s second season as head coach, Alabama played in its final home series of the season against SEC rival, No. 7 LSU, on May 6, 2000. After trailing 2-1 in the four-game series, the Crimson Tide stranded two LSU runners to win the game in eight innings. The win was the team’s 66th of the season, the winningest season in program history. The season would continue into the postseason, as the team would make its first trip to Oklahoma City.
4. HEMPHILL’S HEROICS
Alabama’s matchup with Arizona State on May 19, 2019 was one to remember. The Sun Devils took a quick five-run lead into the top of the fifth, but the Crimson Tide responded with a five-run half-inning to tie the game. The five-run top of the fifth was capped by a clutch grand slam by Bailey Hemphill, her 23rd home run of the season. She finished the year with an SEC-record 26.
3. SIDES SECURES OKC
One week after Hemphill’s heroics against the Sun Devils, Alabama was one out away from its 12th trip to Oklahoma City in the Super Regional against Texas on May 25, 2019. With the tying run on base and a full count, Texas’ M.K. Tedder lifted a fly ball to shallow right field. K.B. Sides jogged over to her right, looked the ball into her glove for the final out and sprinted toward the dogpile that commenced in front of the pitching circle. With the 8-6 win, the Crimson Tide was returning to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2016.
After some controversy over which team should be the No. 8 seed to host the 2017 regional, all eyes were glued to the No. 8 versus No. 9 matchup: Alabama and Minnesota on May 21. The two games would live up to the hype, as both were one-run games laced with great pitching performances by Alabama’s Osorio and Sydney Littlejohn and Minnesota’s Sara Groenewegen. After a bases-loaded walk secured the 1-0 victory for Alabama the day prior, the Crimson Tide got out to an early lead thanks to an RBI double by Runyon. It would be the only run of the game, as Littlejohn and Osorio would combine to shut out the Gophers and advance to the Super Regional round.
1. NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
For the second season in a row, Alabama needed clutch hitting to punch its ticket to Oklahoma City in a 4-3 win over Michigan on May 25, 2012. With the game tied at three going into the top of the sixth inning, Kayla Braud hit a one-out triple down the right-field line, scoring the runner from first to give Alabama its first and only lead of the game. Traina would then shut the door on the Wolverines, stranding the tying run at second. A mere two weeks later, Traina would once again be in the circle recording the final out of the game – this time securing Alabama’s first and only national championship in program history.