It's been a long time coming, but one of the hottest teams in the country now knows its path to the Women's College World Series.
Coming off an SEC tournament championship, Alabama softball was announced as the No. 3 overall seed in the NCAA tournament and will be hosting a regional beginning this Friday.
Even though his team secured an automatic bid by winning the conference tournament, Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said it is special for the team to see their name announced in the bracket.
"Obviously it was an automatic qualification this year, and we knew we were getting in, but to see Alabama on the screen, it just means a lot to everybody," Murphy said.
Along with the Crimson Tide, the Tuscaloosa regional will feature Alabama State, Troy and Clemson. Alabama opened up the 2021 season with a 10-0 win over Alabama State and beat the Troy Trojans 2-0 on Feb. 28. Clemson is in just its second season as a program and will come into Tuscaloosa with a 42-6 record as the regular season ACC Champions.
"We're looking forward to welcoming the other three teams and, I think it's gonna be a really good regional," Murphy said.
Many people around the country were surprised to see the Tigers in Alabama's regional and thought Clemson might get a chance to host. Even though he was slightly surprised to see them in his part of the bracket,Murphy said he told his team that it doesn't matter who they face because you have to beat high quality teams in order to advance in the NCAA tournament.
"The ACC regular season champions, they [Clemson] had a hell of a good year," Murphy said. "So it was a little bit of a surprise. I'm sure they probably felt really disrespected."
The three seed is Alabama's highest position in the bracket since 2014 when the Crimson Tide was seeded second overall and finished runner up at the WCWS to Florida.
The Crimson Tide (45-7, 18-6 SEC) is riding a 13-game win streak into the NCAA tournament capped by the SEC championship game shutout over fourth-overall Florida. It was Alabama's first conference tournament championship since 2012 which is also the last and only time Alabama softball won a national championship.
Because Alabama is a top-eight seed, this means they will also be a host for super regionals if they advance out of the regional. Alabama is the only program to appear in the super regional round in every year of its existence since 2005.
The winner of the Tuscaloosa regional will face the winner of the Lexington regional in Supers hosted by No. 14 Kentucky. Notre Dame, Northwestern and Miami (OH) will join the Wildcats in Lexington. Alabama and Kentucky have met four times this season with the Wildcats taking two of three games in the regular season series, but the Crimson Tide taking the most recent matchup 5-1 in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament.
Twelve SEC teams made the NCAA tournament including seven nationally seeded teams and six in the top nine (Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, LSU, Missouri and Tennessee.)
"Top to bottom the strength of the league was obviously huge and got great respect from throughout the country," Murphy said.
Ultimately, Alabama will be looking to advance out of super regionals as one of the eight teams to head to the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City for the 13th time and seeking its first national championship since 2012.
Ending the regular season at home, then hosting the SEC tournament, NCAA regional, and potentially hosting super regionals would allow the Crimson Tide to play at home four weekends in a row.
"It's happened before that way," Murphy said. "It happened in 2012. We were home for a month. Things worked out pretty good that year."