Softball drops first SEC home series to Arkansas

Dean Harrell, Contributing Writer

With the midway point of the season now officially here, the No. 13 Alabama softball team has finally reached conference play. For the first weekend of Southeastern Conference softball, the Crimson Tide hosted the No. 12 Arkansas Razorbacks at Rhoads Stadium over the weekend.  

After multiple hard-fought, down to the wire games, Alabama ultimately lost the series to the Razorbacks, dropping two of three games.  

Game One: 

For the first matchup of the weekend on Saturday, the Crimson Tide was in a pitcher’s duel all game long with only seven combined hits from both teams. However, Alabama had the slight edge in the hitting category and won 2-0. 

Senior Jenna Johnson got the offense started in the bottom of the second inning for Alabama with a single to center field. Following her were senior Lauren Esman and freshman Larissa Preuitt, being walked and hit by a pitch, respectively, to load the bases. A passed ball by Arkansas brought home Johnson for the first run of the game and the only run the Crimson Tide could scratch across in the inning. 

It was not the last run for head coach Patrick Murphy’s squad, as junior Bailey Dowling led off the bottom half of the fourth inning with a double to right field and was driven home by a single from Johnson, contributing to her three-hit game.  

Senior Montana Fouts was stellar in the circle for Alabama as she struck out eight and only allowed two total hits for her team. Fouts completed her fourth shutout game with her performance on Saturday night.  

“The formula for SEC play is you have to get a good start from your pitching, you have to play great defense, and then you hope for a key hit,” Murphy said. “Bailey Dowling and Jenna Johnson got the key hits for us today, and Montana and the defense did the rest.” 

Game Two: 

In the second day of the home series, Alabama was unable to get the bats going early and fell behind to Arkansas. After a late attempt to win the game, the hole was too big for the Crimson Tide to get out of and it lost the game 5-3.  

The Razorbacks struck early in the second inning after back-to-back walks brought up Arkansas freshman Lauren Camenzind, who ripped a double out to left field to bring home the first run for her team. Following her was fellow freshman Atalyia Rijo, who skipped a single past second base and brought home two more to put the Razorbacks ahead with a 3-0 lead. 

The Crimson Tide responded accordingly in the third inning with seniors Ashley Prange and Ally Shipman on base to lead off the inning. Dowling proceeded to single up the middle and brought home Prange, and sophomore Kali Heivilin continued the hot bats for Alabama with an RBI single to bring home Shipman and cut the Arkansas lead down to one run. 

Poor defensive play by the Crimson Tide in the fifth inning resulted in Arkansas adding two more runs to its lead. Johnson and Jordan Stephens ran into each other during a routine pop fly, causing junior Rylin Hedgecock to cross the plate for the Razorbacks. Just two batters later, Stephens dropped a fly ball and allowed junior Cylie Halvorson to come home and bring Arkansas’ lead to 5-2. 

Even after a scoreless sixth inning, all hope was not lost for Alabama, as Prange singled, Shipman was hit by a pitch, and Dowling was walked to load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the seventh. Junior Emma Broadfoot stepped up and dropped a single to right field and brought home Prange. However, the fireworks were out for the Crimson Tide as three straight strikeouts would end the potential late game rally.  

“I was really pleased with our pitchers. … All three of them pitched effectively, but we just gave them too many walks,” Murphy said. “Offensively we just have to score more runs, simple as that. When we get bases loaded in the seventh with nobody out, we have to win the game.” 

Game Three: 

For the final matchup to decide the series, it was once again a pitcher’s duel, but it was as intense as you would ask for. With an extra innings finish and an eventual ejection, it was perhaps the most consuming game of the season for Alabama. 

It was a slow start for both teams as neither team could grab the early edge they were searching for. Broadfoot, however, put the Crimson Tide ahead in the second inning with a solo home run, being the only run Alabama could muster for a while. 

After multiple opportunities with runners on base, the Razorbacks were not able to respond to Broadfoot’s homerun until the fourth inning after an RBI single up the middle by Camenzind to tie it up at one run apiece. After each team left runners in scoring position in the following innings, the game entered extra innings. 

As the game lingered on and after a long struggle with umpires all night, Murphy eventually reached his limit with the umpire crew in the field and was ejected from the game in the top of the ninth inning.  

Montana Fouts pitched the entirety of the game for Alabama, throwing a career-high 173 pitches, seemingly making no mistake until the top of the tenth inning when Rylin Hedgecock got a hold of a fastball and sent it over the center field fence and put Arkansas ahead for the first time.  

Despite its head coach watching from outside and giving up the potential game winning run, the Crimson Tide was not done yet. Needing a response, Prange put herself on base to begin the bottom of the tenth inning and would be followed by back-to-back singles by Shipman and Dowling to load the bases. However, just as Sunday night’s game ended, Alabama would once again strike out with the bases loaded to end the game with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss.  

Alabama will be back in action at home once again on Wednesday, hosting the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers at 6 p.m. CT. 

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