Softball posts 4-1 record at Clearwater Invitational

Dean Harrell, Contributing Writer

Over the weekend, the Alabama softball team competed in the TaxAct Clearwater Invitational, where it battled against four ranked teams in five games. The weekend was very successful for the Crimson Tide as it was able to win four of the five games in the four-day tournament. 

Though the season is still early, it is clear that the Crimson Tide is headed in a positive direction. 

Game One – No. 15 Alabama vs. No. 16 Duke 

The Crimson Tide (6-2) kicked off the invitational by facing off against the No. 16 Duke University Blue Devils (7-3) on Thursday afternoon. Alabama’s five runs scored in the first two innings was enough to fend off the Blue Devils late game rally to win 5-4.  

Former first team All-SEC selection Ashley Prange led the team in the scoring column, batting in three of the five runs. Prange got things started for Alabama with an RBI single up the middle, scoring freshman Kenleigh Cahalan. She would follow that in the second inning after sending a deep ball out to center field for a home run, scoring two.  

Three-time First Team All-SEC selection Montana Fouts started in the circle for the Crimson Tide and struck out eight batters in her second start of the year. Fouts pitched all seven innings, giving up no runs until the fourth inning when Duke junior Kelly Torres hit a two-run blast in the fourth inning for the Blue Devils. 

Duke went on to pick up two more runs in the sixth and seventh inning after Torres went deep again for a solo shot to left field, followed by a sacrifice fly by Kamryn Jackson in the seventh. However, the late game effort was not enough for the Blue Devils as their three-game win streak came to a close.  

Game Two – No. 12 Alabama vs. No. 2 UCLA 

On the second day of competition, the Crimson Tide matched up against the No. 2 University of California at Los Angeles Bruins (12-0). Things got off to a quick start as a grand slam by the Bruins in the bottom of the first gave them all the momentum they needed to eventually win the game 5-3. 

After a scoreless top half of the first inning by Alabama, UCLA got things going as soon as possible as they loaded the bases for freshman first baseman Jordan Woolery. Woolery proceeded to launch one out to deep right field for a grand slam to start off the game for the Bruins.   

Despite the loss, Prange continued to show off her impressive slugging ability by hitting two home runs and batting in all three runs for Alabama. Prange’s presence to be a threat at the plate remained a theme all weekend long. 

Once again in the circle for the Crimson Tide was Montana Fouts. Despite giving up the early grand slam, she managed to strike out nine batters before being replaced by senior Lauren Esman in the fifth inning. 

Game Three – No. 12 Alabama vs. No. 20 UCF 

During Saturday’s doubleheader, Alabama started off its first of the two games against No. 20 University of Central Florida (4-5). Seven innings was not enough for either team as the game would end up going into extra innings with a walk-off 6-5 Alabama victory. 

The Crimson Tide struggled to get the bats going early on as UCF got out to a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning. However, a two-out rally by Alabama, started off by sophomore Kali Heivilin’s two run blast in the bottom of the fourth resulted in five straight runs and put Alabama in front with a 5-4 lead.  

UCF responded to Alabama’s offensive surge with its third home run of the game, this time a solo shot coming from junior Jada Cody to tie it up at 5-5.  

As the sixth and seventh innings went scoreless for both teams, the game would enter the eighth inning. Senior outfielder Jenna Johnson was placed on second to start the Crimson Tide’s bottom half of the inning. After advancing to third on a flyout, Johnson would be driven home by a walk-off single up the middle by freshman outfielder Kristen White. 

Game Four – No. 12 Alabama vs. Indiana 

For the second game of the day, the Crimson Tide faced off against the Indiana Hoosiers (3-6). Though it was the second game in a row for Alabama, the team had no trouble whatsoever as it cruised to a 10-0 victory against the Hoosiers. 

The bats were hot all game long as Alabama picked up 14 hits. Freshman catcher Marlie Giles went  a perfect 3-for-3, including an RBI to lead the charge for the Crimson Tide. Freshmen White and Cahalan, along with sophomore Jordan Stephens, each picked up two RBIs as well. 

Senior pitcher Lauren Esman was a threat to Indiana all game long as she only gave up three hits and struck out four. Due to Esman’s proficiency from the circle and the consistent batting from the offense, the game would be stopped early in the fifth inning by run rule.  

Game Five – No. 12 Alabama vs. No. 7 FSU 

On the fourth and final day of play, Alabama played its last game against the No. 7 Florida State University Seminoles (9-3). A pitcher’s duel all the way through resulted in a low scoring 2-1 victory for Alabama. 

The Crimson Tide were unable to pick up a hit until the fourth inning, when second baseman Cahalan went deep to put the first run on the board for either team. Just three batters later, designated player Bailey Dowling followed with a home run of her own to put Alabama in the lead 2-0. 

Florida State would respond in the fifth inning after Jahni Kerr hit a solo home run to bring the Seminoles just one run away from tying the game. However, after stranding the tying runner on third in the seventh inning, the Seminoles would fall short.  

Fouts once again proved her elite ability in the circle as she only allowed one run off of four hits. Fouts struck out seven batters to continue her prolific pitching season this year.  

Alabama will be back in action as it will host the Samford University Bulldogs at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 6 p.m. CT. 

Questions or comments? Email Blake Byler (Sports Editor) at [email protected]