WCWS: Alabama beats Kentucky, 1 win away from championship series
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Jaclyn Traina threw a four-hitter, Leona Lafaele hit a two-run homer and Alabama beat Southeastern Conference rival Kentucky 2-0 on Friday night in the Women's College World Series. Alabama (52-11) needs one win to reach the best-of-three championship series and won't play again until Sunday. Kentucky (50-18) will play Baylor or Florida State in an elimination game Saturday. Traina (25-3), who pitched Alabama to the 2012 national title, allowed two hits in 13 innings in two WCWS games this season before Kentucky loaded the bases on singles by Nikki Sagermann, Griffin Joiner and Lauren Cumbess with no outs in the seventh. Traina recovered by striking out Emily Gaines and coaxing a double-play grounder from Krystal Smith. "That's why you play the game," Traina said. "You play the game for those pressure situations. I've gotten myself into those situations before and I felt like I could get out of it. I just had confidence in my teammates and my pitches." Alabama improved to 40-4 against Kentucky, a team the Crimson Tide hadn't played this season before Friday. "It was just an awesome game tonight," Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. "I thought it was a made-for-TV sporting event, the way it ended, the way it played out just two really, really good teams with two very good pitchers going at it. I couldn't be more pleased to stay in the winners' bracket." Traina had a no-hitter until Sylver Samuel beat out an infield single with two outs in the sixth. The win was the 105th of Traina's career, moving her into sole possession of seventh place on the all-time SEC list. "In my opinion, she proved she's the best pitcher in college softball tonight," Kentucky coach Rachel Lawson said about Traina. Kelsey Nunley (30-10) threw a three-hitter for the Wildcats, with all of those hits coming in the first two innings. Hailey McClearly led off the first with a double for Alabama but was stranded at third base. In the second, Peyton Grantham singled to center field with two outs before Lafaele's shot over the left-center field wall. Nunley, who has thrown every pitch for Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, allowed just two other baserunners. "I thought today was a good game," Lawson said. "You never want to be on the losing end of things, but I love the fight my team showed throughout the game. To put ourselves in the position to win in the seventh inning, I was proud of the fact they did that." Kentucky was trying to become the first team since Oklahoma in 2000 to win its first two games in its WCWS debut. The Wildcats became the fourth team to fail to do so since then, joining Stanford (2001), Tennessee (2005) and Hawaii (2010).