Softball defeats Northwestern, advances to Women’s College World Series


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama softball pitcher Montana Fouts (#14) celebrates with team against Northwestern on May 28 at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Dean Harrell, Contributing Writer

Over the weekend, the Alabama softball team competed one last time at Rhoads Stadium as it hosted the super-regional round of the college softball NCAA tournament. Coming off of a tough win in regionals, the Crimson Tide was set to face the 12-seeded Northwestern Wildcats. 

Seeking yet another appearance in the Women’s College World Series under head coach Patrick Murphy, Alabama took the series in three games and will continue its magical season.  

Game one 

For game one of the super regionals on Friday night, the Crimson Tide was unable to get the upper hand in the series. In a low-scoring affair, the Wildcats defeated Alabama 3-1 to begin the weekend.  

Making her highly anticipated return, senior Montana Fouts took the circle once again for the Crimson Tide.  

However, Fouts’ return was spoiled early on in the matchup as Northwestern put up one run each in the second, third and fourth innings.  

The Wildcats got everything started in the second inning. After a quick two outs, Northwestern senior Angela Zedak blasted a solo home run over the center field wall for the game’s first run. The Crimson Tide attempted to return fire in the bottom half of the inning but couldn’t take advantage of two runners on base.  

Northwestern began an early rally in the third inning, quickly loading the bases with no outs. Graduate student Jordyn Rudd added to the Wildcat lead with a single through the left side of the infield. Limiting the damage, the Alabama defense came up with a double play to end the inning, down 2-0. 

While the Crimson Tide defense prevented a big inning from Northwestern, the Wildcats were still able to tack on another run in the fourth inning. After a fielder’s choice ground ball and a walk, Northwestern had two runners on base for freshman Kelsey Nader. Nader proceeded to rip a single up the middle to extend the lead to 3-0. 

After giving up a run in three consecutive innings, Fouts was done for the day and was replaced by junior Jaala Torrence in the top of the fourth.  

Despite the slow start, the Crimson Tide found some life in the bottom half of the fourth inning. Junior Emma Broadfoot was hit by a pitch, and sophomore Jordan Stephens entered the game to pinch run for her. Soon after, with two outs, freshman Kristen White ripped a single into right field, but a slow relay allowed Stephens to score all the way from first base. 

However, Stephens’ run was the only one that Alabama could scratch across in the matchup. With the last three innings going scoreless for both teams, the Crimson Tide took the 3-1 loss in game one. 

Game two 

After a disappointing loss to begin the series, Alabama sought a victory in game two to keep the series alive. Having its wish granted, the Crimson Tide pulled off a late-game spectacle on the backs of graduate student Ashley Prange and Fouts to take a 2-1 victory.  

After a slow offensive start on Friday, Alabama did the opposite on Saturday. Leading off the first inning, Prange ripped a double out to the left field wall. Following her, a sacrifice bunt by senior Jenna Johnson and a sacrifice fly by junior Bailey Dowling allowed Prange to come home and score for the first run of the game.  

Throughout the following three innings, both teams showed off their impressive defensive skills. 

While the bats for Northwestern were starting to come alive, Torrence prevented big innings from the Wildcats as she got out of back-to-back innings with two runners on.  

On the other side, however, Northwestern limited Alabama to only one hit through the second, third and fourth innings.  

As the pitchers’ duel continued, the Wildcats were finally able to get on the board in the fifth inning. Graduate student Skyler Shellmyer began the inning with a leadoff single to put an early runner aboard. After advancing to second base off of a wild pitch, Rudd laced a single up the middle to bring home Shellmyer and tie the game up.  

After giving up the run, Fouts came in to replace Torrence in the fifth inning with only one out. Fouts kept the Wildcats scoreless for the rest of the inning, and the sixth inning as well, as the seventh and final inning approached. 

Freshman Larissa Preuitt gave the Tide the spark it needed, leading off the inning with a single into left field and advancing to second base following a sacrifice bunt by White. Then, when her team needed her the most, Prange delivered a huge single up the middle to bring home Preuitt and take the lead once again. 

With a slim lead and heavy pressure going into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Crimson Tide looked toward Fouts to close the game out. 

Answering the call at hand, Fouts retired the final three batters and secured the victory in game two to keep the series alive for a game three.  

Game three 

With the first two games of the weekend split, it all came down to game three to decide who would advance to the Women’s College World Series. Putting on a show one last time at home, the Crimson Tide closed out one final game at Rhoads Stadium and secured the victory. 

As the first two innings went scoreless for both teams, an hourlong lightning delay took place in the bottom half of the third inning. However, the delay had no negative effect on Alabama, as it brought home two runs when the inning resumed to put the Crimson Tide on the board. 

White led off the bottom of the third with a single, and Prange followed with a walk to put two runners aboard. Soon after, graduate student Ally Shipman ripped a long single down the left field line to bring home White and Prange and break the 0-0 tie. 

While Torrence got the start, Fouts came in to replace her in the top of the fourth. However, with just the second batter she faced, she gave up an RBI single to put the Wildcats on the board for the first time in the game.  

Just as Northwestern seemed to be gaining some momentum, Johnson responded for Alabama by drilling a solo home run off the left field foul pole, extending the Crimson Tide lead by one more run and making it a 3-1 ball game. 

With the sixth inning going scoreless, it all came down to the top of the seventh inning for the Wildcats to save their season, and the Crimson Tide to continue its own.  

After a high-bouncing ground ball, an acrobatic leap by second baseman Kali Heivilin allowed her to haul it in and make the throw over to first base for the first out of the inning. However, with the electric crowd on its feet, graduate student Maeve Nelson felt no pressure and kept her team alive by crushing a solo home run over the left field wall to bring the Wildcats within one. 

Even with the late-game home run, Fouts remained calm and collected, picking up the second out after a routine ground ball to shortstop. Needing one more out, with over 3,500 fans in attendance, Fouts delivered a final strikeout to seal the victory and advance her team to its 14th Women’s College World Series. 

Alabama will play its first game of the Women’s College World Series on Thursday afternoon against the red-hot Tennessee Lady Volunteers in Oklahoma City at 11 a.m. CT.