Recap | Pitching propels softball sweep of Alabama State tournament

The team is back and more competitive than ever.


CW file

Alabama softball’s opening weekend was nearly shut down due to the cancellation of the Texas Classic. However, the team managed to pull together a few games this weekend thanks to a tweet from head coach Patrick Murphy on Thursday, asking if any teams were willing to face No. 8 Alabama softball. Within a couple of hours, Alabama softball’s Twitter account announced it had been invited to travel down south to compete in the Alabama State tournament with games against host Alabama State and Notre Dame.

Game One vs Alabama State:

A crisp Friday night in Montgomery was the setting for a hot start to Alabama softball’s 2021 campaign, as the team landed a mercy rule 10-0 win over the Alabama State Hornets.

“It was a great way to start things off,” head coach Patrick Murphy said.

The dominant season-opening win began in the circle behind a combined perfect game from the right-handed arms of junior Montana Fouts (1-0) and graduate student Sarah Cornell. It was the program’s fifth and the first perfect game since Alexis Osorio’s in 2017. Fouts got the start and made quick work of the Alabama State offense. She threw 45 pitches in four innings of work and struck out nine of the 12 batters that came to the plate. Cornell followed the footsteps of Fouts and quickly retired the side in the fifth inning to put game one of the season into the books.

“I was really pleased with our pitching staff,” Murphy said. “Montana gave us an awesome start and Sarah came in and did her job and went right at them.”

Senior Kaylee Tow was a highlight of the Crimson Tide’s offense. She launched a homerun over the right-field wall, which was both hers and the team’s first of the season, to expand Alabama’s lead to 7-0 in the fourth inning.

“I was really happy to see Tow get that big homerun,” Murphy said.

The offense also received major contributions from sophomore Jenna Johnson and graduate students Elissa Brown and Bailey Hemphill. Johnson and Brown each tallied a team-leading two hits while Hemphill tied Tow with the most RBIs in the game, two. The Alabama offense as a whole showed great promise to begin the season with great patience at the plate, drawing eight walks, eight stolen bases and not one strikeout on the night.

Game Two vs Notre Dame:

Alabama softball (2-0) looked to have taken a page out of the book from the football program Saturday night, Feb. 13. The Crimson Tide dominated the Notre Dame Irish (1-1) and captured its second straight mercy rule and shutout win of the season, 10-0.

Like Friday night, the Crimson Tide’s lopsided victory began with another strong performance in the circle, but this time from sophomore Lexi Kilfoyl (1-0). Kilfoyl was in cruise control through the first as she struck out the side and continued to plow through the Notre Dame offense in her next three innings of work allowing a pair of singles, no walks and finished her night with six punch outs.

Freshman Jaala Torrence made her Alabama debut and came in with a save opportunity in the fifth inning and did so successfully to seal the win for the team.

The Alabama offense did not pick up steam until the fifth inning, until which point the team only carried a two-point lead. A bases clearing triple from graduate student Claire Jenkins put Alabama up 6-0 and out of reach for Notre Dame. The Crimson Tide would tally its final four runs of the game off of a two-run double off the bat from graduate student Alexis Mack and received help from the Irish defense as it committed five errors in the inning.

Mack finished the day with a perfect 3-for-3 game at the plate and the Alabama offense also collected multi-hit performances for Dowling and graduate students Bailey Hemphill.

Sunday shutouts make for a Louisville sweep

The game one 5-0 win was a milestone for head coach Patrick Murphy as he secured his 1,100 win career win in crimson and white, which dates back to the program’s inaugural season in 1997.

“It’s just been a great ride from day one,” Murphy said. “I’m filled with gratitude and thankful.”

Prior to the start of the season, Murphy referenced junior Montana Fouts (2-0) as “Montana 2.0” after a subpar shortened sophomore season. The Kentucky native followed her season opening perfect game against Alabama State with another stellar shutout performance. In her first complete game of the season, Fouts allowed a single hit and walk and a season-high 11 strikeouts.

“Montana was very efficient,” Murphy said. “The 1-2 pitch was usually a good one and that’s the key. If she can get batters out in four pitches or less she’s going to have a good day.”

Last year’s lone all-American senior K.B. Sides got the Alabama offense started early with a leadoff infield single in the first; her first of the season. Fellow graduate student Claire Jenkins had herself a two-run RBI single, which put Alabama up 3-0 at the end of the first.

“That was the big hit [Jenkins’] I think in the first game,” Murphy said. “Those were big RBIs for her.”

Alabama added an insurance run on each of the fourth and fifth innings from a Jenkins groundout, third RBI of the game, and Sides contributed her first RBI with her first extra base hit of the season, which allowed graduate student Elissa Brown to scoot past home plate for the game’s final run.

The NCAA providing an extra year of eligibility from last year’s shortened season brought a lot of excitement around the possibility of both Bailey Hemphill and top recruit Bailey Dowling having the opportunity to play together. In each of the first four games, this possibility became a reality with Hemphill batting third and Dowling protecting Hemphill in the clean-up spot.

Hemphill has flexed her muscles early this season, batting .462 and managing a team-leading seven RBIs. She went 1-for-2 with two RBIs in Alabama’s second game of its doubleheader. The opposition was forced to pitch to Hemphill due to the success of Dowling; batted for a .308 average, tallied five RBIs and launched her first homerun in an Alabama uniform in game two of the doubleheader.

“It was pretty amazing as this has been my dreaming since I was in the third game,” Dowling said.

Having to hit after Hemphill has not put any pressure as she understands her role and knows that everyone on the team “has each other’s back.”

“Coach [Murphy] always preaches ‘mudita,’ and this team has that and that is really what it’s about,” Dowling said.

The offense only needed one run in its 4-0 victory over the cardinal as sophomore Lexi Kilfoyl threw her second and the team’s overall fourth shutout of the season. Kilfoyl had double-digit strikeouts in game two and allowed a trio of hits and her first walk of the season.

The Alabama offense was stationary opening weekend with singles and walks, but Murphy stated in order for it to be more potent down the stretch, extra base hits and home runs would need to be added to the mix.

“Instead of going single, single, single we are gonna need single, walk and homerun to put runs up on the board quickly,” Murphy said.

Alabama softball will host the Easton Bama Bash starting next Friday, Feb. 19, with a doubleheader against Liberty with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m.