Softball | The Crimson Tide serves the Vols a series loss

Alabama has won both its SEC series to open up conference play. 

Robert Cortez, Staff Reporter

After splitting the first two games, a “rubber match” was held inside Rhoads Stadium on Sunday, Mar. 21, where No. 2/3 Alabama softball (24-2; 5-1 SEC) came out with a 3-0 win against No. 19/21 Tennessee (21-5; 2-4 SEC) to take the beginning of the series.

“Just a really good series win for us to get some really good opponents, and I’m proud of everybody,” head coach Patrick Murphy said. 

The series ended with a pitcher’s duel throughout the first four innings of the final game, as Alabama junior Montana Fouts (9-2; 1.18 ERA) and Tennessee junior Ashley Rogers (10-4; 1.40 ERA) held their opponents scoreless. Rogers threw a no-hitter into the fifth but was broken up by sophomore Savannah Woodard, which advanced Alabama’s first runner, graduate student Claire Jenkins who was on base due to a walk, into scoring position for Alabama. 

Woodard’s Sunday start was not the first time she saw the field on the weekend as she replaced freshman Bailey Dowling who sustained an injury in game two. Murphy said it’s important for athletes like Woodard to not put “too much pressure” on themselves when replacing an injured teammate. The in-state product went 3-7 at the plate and had a couple of diving plays on defense, which made the skipper proud.

“She got two hits yesterday and got the first hit today and I’m really happy for her,” Murphy said.

Sophomore Lexi Kilfoyl stuck out Friday night against Rogers to close out Tennessee’s lone win of the series. She flipped Woodard’s script, following with a single of her own to bring in Jenkins to put the Crimson Tide ahead 1-0. Alabama went on to score a pair of runs in the inning off of a failed fielder’s choice play at the home plate, 2-0, and a base loaded walk to senior K.B. Sides, 3-0. 

Fouts snapped her three-game SEC losing streak at home with her fifth shutout of the season. A big part of the Kentucky native’s success was her ability to retire the leadoff batter in each inning, whereas in Friday night’s loss the Lady Vols’ leadoff batter reached four out of seven times. Fouts tallied eight strikeouts on the day, which put her at 15 on the weekend, and carries a team-leading 113 strikeouts. 

“Montana did a great job and was just hitting her spots really well, and her speed was up today,” Murphy said.

The Alabama defense collected its first errorless game on the weekend and included graduate student Bailey Hemphill throwing out a runner in the top of the sixth, which would end up being the Lady Vols last baserunner in the afternoon. The defensive effort instilled an extra boost of confidence for Fouts to attack the Tennessee offense.

“They were making great plays behind me and Bailey was looking great back there, as always,” Fouts said. 

The Crimson Tide will resume action on Wednesday, Mar. 24, for a midweek match-up against North Alabama inside Rhoads Stadium at 6 p.m. CT. The game will air on SEC Network Plus and on 93.3 FM radio.