TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama's Ryan Iamurri is the self-described "4-foot-10 singles hitter" who's tough enough to play the past two months with torn knee ligaments.
Jaclyn Traina is the Crimson Tide's 5-11 All-American pitcher and part-time slugger.
Teammates since they were 6 years old, Iamurri and Traina are trying to end a seemingly mismatched but certainly successful pairing that's lasted most of their lives with a second title in three years at the Women's College World Series starting Thursday against Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.
"We won a state championship our sophomore year in high school, which is the same year in college we won a national championship," Iamurri said. "Our senior year in high school, we lost in the state finals.
"I don't know if that's in our head at all, but we definitely don't want to end our college career that way."
They've always run in different circles away from softball but are "like best friends on the field," Traina said.
They started out playing for Iamurri's father, Robert, in Naples, Florida, and were part of the runner-up team at the 2003 Little League Softball World Series.
Traina is one of college softball's top pitchers with a 103-19 career mark and has also hit 38 homers in four seasons. She pitched a complete-game three-hitter to clinch a super regional sweep against Nebraska and is 23-3.
Iamurri is more of a role player, a pinch-hitter whose role is often to move runners over with bunts or beat out singles.
She tore the ACL and MCL in her left knee in a March practice. After speaking with team doctor Lyle Cain, Iamurri decided she didn't want to end her career as a spectator and postponed surgery. She returned April 2 against South Alabama as a pinch-hitter.
"It's been so worth it, too," said Iamurri, who is batting .362 with four sacrifice hits. "I mean, I had no idea when I said yeah, I'm going to do it. Three weeks after I hurt it, I hit for the first time and running to first was like terrible. I could barely do it.
"As the weeks and months went by, I was fine and now I'm up to what I could do before. Now every time I get on the field I look back and I'm like, 'Wow, I'm so happy I made that decision.'"
Coach Patrick Murphy uses a pinch-runner for her when she reaches base. Iamurri had a sacrifice bunt in Alabama's two-run fourth inning in the first game against Nebraska.
Playing hurt is nothing new for the infielder. She played her freshman season with a broken finger that will need to be fixed after her playing career, too, according to her father.
"It looks like a football defensive lineman's finger," said Robert Iamurri, a youth and high school coach who's won 13 Florida state titles during his coaching career. "It's ugly. She's like, 'I'll fix it when I'm done.'"
He coached Traina and his daughter since they were drawing pictures in the infield dirt to where they became star high school players even as ninth-graders. He said Jackie is more laidback while Ryan is the chatty social butterfly for whom "if there's not five things she's got planned tonight, it's a boring night."
The combination has worked for them.
"They were really almost the perfect match," Robert Iamurri said. "They fed off each other's energy."