Duke softball exits Women's College World Series with close defeat at the hands of Alabama

Ana Gold scored the lone run in the game for Duke.
Ana Gold scored the lone run in the game for Duke.

OKLAHOMA CITY— The first trip to the Women’s College World Series in its short program history ended in heartbreak for Duke as it fell first to Oklahoma in Game 1 and then ended its journey with a 2-1 loss to Alabama. 

“It won’t hit us until we get back home to Durham and step back out on our field,” said Duke head coach Marrisa Young after her team’s loss. “It’s been a tough road as a new program, but we’re here and just look forward to continuing to build from this.”  

The Crimson Tide hit the scoreboard first. A catching error by graduate student Gisele Tapia on a ground ball by Kenleigh Cahalan allowed her to reach second base and put her in scoring position. Her teammate Marlie Giles brought Calahan home with a double to right-center field to give Alabama the lead after one. 

The Blue Devils (52-9) quickly struck back in the second inning. Down 1-0, the Duke career home run leader, Ana Gold, did exactly what she does best and blasted a home run over the center-field wall to tie up the game. With two more runners on base for the Blue Devils, it looked as though they might quickly break the tie and add on to their lead, but Alabama’s defense quickly cleaned up Duke’s runners and kept the game tied. 

Bats for both teams went quiet after that, and for the next three innings, the score would remain unchanged. 

But Alabama (39-19) slowly swung the momentum of the game back in its favor to break the stalemate. Giles, who had played a key part in Alabama’s first run, finally broke the tie in the sixth inning as she hit a home run to right-center field and brought her team the lead and eventually the victory. 

After taking the lead, Alabama put on a defensive masterclass for the remainder of the game, making impressive throws and catches as they stifled any and every attempt the Blue Devils made to tie the game back up or take the lead. Against Beaver, Duke’s usually hot bats went cold and stayed that way. 

Numerous times in the middle of the game it seemed as though both teams would take the lead. Alabama’s Kali Heivilin hit looked poised to creep over the center-field wall, but freshman Amiah Burgess leaped up for the catch to rob her of the home run and keep the score even in the third. Two innings later, it looked as though Burgess would make another tough catch against Heivilin. This time though, the ball dropped between her hands and Heivilin advanced to third and within striking distance to break the tie. The Three Rivers, Mich., native would not cross the plate, however, as a combination of Cassidy Curd’s pitching and Duke’s defense managed to momentarily keep the Crimson Tide in check. 

After a powerful single by Gold, who had previously scored the home run, Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy pulled freshman Jocelyn Briski from the circle and put in All-American Kayla Beaver for relief. Beaver surrendered four runs to UCLA in the Crimson Tide's first game, but settled in quickly to her relief role against the Blue Devils. 

“She’s elite and was really getting in on the left handed hitters,” Young said of Beaver. “They were working to make adjustments, we just sort of ran out of time.” 

On the other side of the circle, Curd once again earned the start for Duke but pitched the whole game this time out. Though the Port St. Lucie, Fla., native pitched a solid game, only giving up two runs and four hits to the Crimson Tide, those two runs were all Alabama needed to secure the lead and advance. 

Despite the loss, the Blue Devils were assured of their young program’s future.. 

“Seven years is a very young program,” said senior Kelly Torres after the game. “This isn’t the last year you’re gonna see of Duke softball.”

With the loss, Duke’s impressive 2024 season comes to an end, while Alabama advances to face off against the winner of Texas and Florida Sunday afternoon.


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