Softball secures series win over South Carolina during rainy Easter weekend

Blake Byler, Sports Editor

Southeastern Conference play is in full swing for Alabama softball, and the Crimson Tide got back on track with a much-needed 2-1 series win over South Carolina on April 6 and 8. 

Game One 

The first game of the weekend was a nail-biter in every sense of the word, with the Crimson Tide securing a 2-1 victory in extra innings. 

Runs were hard to come by all game for both teams, with starting pitcher Montana Fouts pitching all nine innings and striking out 15 batters in the process. 

“I feel like growing up … I’ve been through 100 million extra-inning games,” Fouts said. “It’s just digging deep in the moment, trusting your defense, the timely hits like we had and the killer plays. I’m really proud of us for coming through today.” 

Alabama didn’t score its first run until the bottom of the third. Freshman Kenleigh Cahalan opened the inning with a leadoff double, and two at-bats later graduate student Ashley Prange brought the young gun home for the Crimson Tide’s first run of the game.  

With the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth and a chance to extend the lead, sophomore Kali Heivilin struck out swinging, keeping the Gamecocks in it. 

Fouts had a perfect game through four innings, but the fifth saw South Carolina finally record its first hit. Later in the inning the Gamecocks loaded the bases, and it looked like two straight outs got the Crimson Tide out of a jam. Instead, an out at first base was overturned, giving South Carolina a tying run. 

The two teams stood scoreless for what seemed like ages, but a leadoff single from senior Jenna Johnson in the bottom of the ninth set things into motion. Tension inside Rhoads Stadium built as a second runner got on base, and after a quick out, Cahalan stepped up to the plate. 

“I thought maybe they’d walk her for a second,” Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. “I just think she’s going to come through every time. I think everybody on the team has that confidence with her. She’s too good to hold down, and I think they recognize that.” 

The star freshman ripped one into shallow center field to the joyous roars of the Alabama softball faithful, bringing freshman Larissa Preuitt home and walking the game off.  

“I knew that with the team getting on base in the first part. … I knew if I got the ball in play something good would happen,” Cahalan said.  

Game Two 

Inclement weather pushed what was supposed to be Friday’s game two into a Saturday doubleheader, and with the extra day of rest, Fouts came out and put on a show. 

As the sun began to peek through the rainy clouds in the Tuscaloosa skies, Fouts dazzled the Rhoads Stadium crowd with a no-hitter, the fourth of her legendary career. She struck out 10 batters and pitched all seven innings, following up her brilliant game one performance with an even better one. 

“Montana is unreal, especially on the second day that she pitches against a team,” Murphy said. “Everybody got a day off with rain, but to do what she did the second time in a series is just unreal. It seems like she gets better and better. I don’t know what else to say about her. She got all the awards last week and she’ll probably get them again this week.” 

On the offensive side, the Crimson Tide found more overall success than the first game, but it all came in the third inning as opposed to being spread out consistently over the course of the game. 

With the bases loaded and no outs to open the inning, graduate student Ally Shipman drove in the first run of the game, and junior Jenna Johnson followed bringing in another the very next at bat. The final two runs of the inning were scored a bit more unconventionally, with a sac fly from junior Bailey Dowling bringing in Prange, and Shipman later scoring while Johnson was caught in a rundown.  

The inning brought the score to 4-0, which both teams would hold for the remainder of the game. 

Game Three 

With the series already clinched by the Crimson Tide and Fouts having already pitched two games in three days, Murphy turned to junior Lauren Esman in the circle for the final game of the series. 

The Gamecocks got the upper hand in this one, taking a 1-0 lead in the third inning after sophomore Giulia Desiderio stole home, but later in the inning Alabama found itself on the board as well. A solo shot from Prange over the left center field wall got the crowd right back into it as the game tied at one run apiece.  

South Carolina wasted no time breaking the tie in the fourth, with fifth year infielder Jordan Fabian blasting a two-run shot out of the park to give the Gamecocks a 3-1 lead, and they never looked back.  

The Crimson Tide offense stalled for the remainder of the game, never being able to consistently pass the bat down as has been a problem all season. 

The defeat wasn’t world-ending, though, with two SEC wins having already been picked up in the first two games of the season. 

Next, the Crimson Tide has an in-state road game lined up with a midweek tilt against Samford University in Birmingham set for Tuesday, April 11, at 6 p.m. CT. 

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