Recap | Softball opens postseason play in historic fashion

Robert Cortez, Staff Reporter

No. 3 Alabama softball (43-7; 1-0 postseason) sent No. 17 Kentucky (39-13; 1-1 postseason) back to Lexington, Ky. after toppling the Wildcats 5-1 in the quarterfinals on May 8. 

“This was a great Division 1 softball game between two really good teams, and [Kentucky] will do great in the postseason,” Head Coach Patrick Murphy said.

Murphy compared the atmosphere inside Rhoads Stadium to games before the COVID-19 pandemic. The skipper said Ann Rhoads, the stadium’s namesake who died last week, would have been smiling tonight. 

The victory marked 2021 SEC Player of the Year Bailey Hemphill’s 199th win during her time at Alabama. Hemphill tied Kelly Kretschman’s program record when she hit home run No. 60 in the fifth inning. 

For a 15-game stretch leading up to Thursday night, Hemphill was two home runs shy of tying the record. After her second home run of the game, Hemphill got the curtain call and received an abundance of applause from the Alabama faithful. 

“Murphy told me I better go out and give the fans a wave,” Hemphill said. “It was just really awesome and definitely a memory I’ll never forget.”

Hemphill now holds the program record for home runs and walks, and boasts the second highest number of career RBIs. 

Paige Acker was one of more than a thousand fans who witnessed Hemphill’s historic night in Rhoads Stadium.

“I think any time you get to see a student-athlete excel at what they have worked so hard for is really cool … To be part of something that’s a little bit bigger than ourselves is one of the best things about sports,” Acker said. 

Junior Montana Fouts (20-3; 1.49 ERA) also made history against Kentucky. Her 15 strikeouts in the game tied an SEC Tournament single game record, which former Crimson Tide pitcher Alexis Osorio made in 2017. 

“To catch Montana is an honor in itself,” Hemphill said. “I’m happy she’s on our team because I would not want to have her as a hitter.” 

Fouts, the 2021 SEC Co-Pitcher of the Year, struck out multiple batters in six of the seven frames, and she struck out each batter in Kentucky’s starting lineup at least once. Fouts gave up five hits in the game and the run scored was unearned. 

Sophomore Jenna Johnson collected the other two RBIs in the game with a double down the left field line in the third inning, giving Alabama a 3-0 lead. 

The Alabama offense tallied seven hits in the game with a .333 batting average. Four of Alabama’s seven hits came from the leadoff batter in the inning, and they would come around to score twice.

The Crimson Tide will face Tennessee Friday, May 14, in its semifinal game which can be viewed on ESPN2. First pitch will take place approximately 35 minutes after the first semifinal game between Florida and Missouri, which is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT.