Fouts goes down; softball defeats defending tournament champion Razorbacks to advance to semifinals


Pitchers Alex Salter and Montana Fouts embrace during Alabama’s win again the Arkansas Razorbacks Thursday night. Courtesy of UA Athletics.

Dean Harrell, Contributing Writer

In the second round of the SEC tournament, the Alabama softball team took on perhaps one of the toughest obstacles in the tournament: the hosts and defending champions, the Arkansas Razorbacks.  

After a wild ninth-inning finish, which saw senior Montana Fouts leave in the seventh inning with an injury, the Crimson Tide came out on top with a 3-2 victory. 

Despite tough pitching early on from Razorback senior Chenise Delce, Alabama was able to scratch across a run in the second inning. Freshman Kristen White put a grounder in play to first base, but a fielding error caused senior Ally Shipman to cross the plate for the first run of the game.  

As in any good pitcher’s duel, runs were very hard to come across for both sides. With Delce limiting base runners and Fouts striking out batter after batter, both teams struggled to bring runners home. 

“For both sides, the pitchers were terrific. They made pitches when they needed to and got out of several jams,” head coach Patrick Murphy said. “It was kind of a World Series-type game here at the SEC tournament, and the atmosphere matched it.” 

Alabama especially had trouble leaving runners stranded on base. The Crimson Tide left runners on third base in the first, second and fourth innings, giving them multiple scoring opportunities to extend the lead they could not capitalize on. 

Struggling all night long on the bases, Arkansas took until the sixth inning to respond to Alabama’s early run. With one out and a runner on second and third, junior Cylie Halvorson lofted a single into shallow center field that brought home freshman Reagan Johnson to tie the game at one run apiece. 

The seventh inning alone was a wild roller coaster of emotions on both sides. In the top half of the inning, graduate student Ashley Prange was walked with one out away and soon advanced to second base and scoring position. However, following two back-to-back strikeouts, Alabama once again could not capitalize on the runner in scoring position, and the Razorbacks got out of the jam.  

In the bottom half of the seventh inning, tragedy struck for the Crimson Tide. After securing the second out of the inning, Fouts was forced to leave the game with an apparent left leg injury. Fouts tried to muscle through the injury but could not safely plant her left leg.  

Sophomore Alex Salter came in to replace her and navigated out of a bases-loaded jam to bring the game into extra innings.  

Salter said she and the rest of the Alabama pitchers were prepared to back up Fouts.  

“You never know what happens in the game, or if anyone needs to come in, because I know the rest of the pitchers were ready if their name was called just like mine was,” Salter said. “We’re just always ready when our time comes.” 

After a scoreless eighth inning, Alabama pieced together an exceptional top half of the ninth inning. After a quick first out, walks from freshman Larissa Preuitt and Prange gave the middle of the order a couple of base runners to work with.  

After multiple wild pitches, Preuitt advanced to third and Prange to second as junior Bailey Dowling came up to the plate. Dowling, who had struggled all game, ripped a hard single down the third base line to bring home Prange and Preuitt, giving the Crimson Tide a 3-1 lead over Arkansas. 

“I was just thinking I wanted to get it done for my team,” Dowling said. “Everyone had my back, and I wanted to have theirs.” 

Without its ace, the Crimson Tide needed three outs to secure the victory. Salter picked up a leadoff strikeout for the first out. Left fielder Jenna Johnson followed with an acrobatic diving catch for the second.  

However, no lead is safe in SEC softball, especially during postseason.  

Salter walked Reagan Johnson to bring up sophomore Raigan Kramer, who proceeded to loft what appeared to be a routine pop fly in shallow right field. But the ball fell to the ground, causing Johnson to score all the way from first base to make it a one-run game. 

With a runner on third and two outs, the Razorbacks needed a base hit to tie the game back up once again. However, the short momentum burst from Arkansas was cut short after a routine ground ball to shortstop was thrown to first for the final out of the game. 

With injury concerns for such an impactful player as Fouts, it can be hard for any team to regroup and keep the same energy. The Crimson Tide, though, kept the fire going and took a huge tournament victory. 

Murphy said Fouts impacted the game despite being taken out of it. 

“Montana has been the leader from day one, the one that speaks up in the huddle, the one that speaks up in practice, the team room, the whole thing,” Murphy said. “I really think they wanted to have her back 100% tonight.” 

Following the victory, the Crimson Tide advances to the semifinal round. Alabama will face the winner of the No. 1-seed Tennessee Volunteers and the No. 8-seed Florida Gators on Friday night. The game is scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. CT start time.