Recap | Alabama softball wins sixth SEC championship in record-breaking tournament

Robert Cortez

No. 3 Alabama softball (45-7; 3-0 postseason) toppled Florida 4-0 on Saturday, May 15, in the SEC championship game — the fourth SEC title for UA Athletics this year, following football, men’s basketball and gymnastics. 

In 2012, Alabama became the first program to win the SEC Tournament on its home field. ‘Team 25’ did it for a second time Saturday night. Alabama is the only program to do so.

Alabama softball now leads the conference with six SEC Tournament titles, breaking a three-way record with the Florida Gators and the LSU Tigers. 

“This means everything to us because of all the adversity we faced and the injuries we’ve overcome this year,” junior Montana Fouts said. “To us, this win signifies that anything is possible and we can accomplish anything.”

Alabama made history in the quarterfinal when Fouts (22-3; 1.55 ERA) tied the record for most strikeouts in an SEC Tournament game. Then, graduate student Bailey Hemphill broke the program’s career home run record in the semifinal against No. 17 Tennessee. 

The trend continued in the championship game. 

Fouts’ 10th strikeout of Saturday’s game was her 38th in the tournament, which broke the record for most strikeouts in an SEC Tournament. LSU’s Britni Sneed set the previous record in 2002. Fouts finished the tournament with a record 39 strikeouts. 

Along with her 11 strikeouts in the championship game, Fouts gave up a scarce three hits, which came in the first two innings. Florida recorded only five at-bats with runners on base against Fouts, and only one Gator base runner made it into scoring position. Fouts, the 2021 SEC Co-Pitcher of the Year, held the Gators to a .125 batting average on the night.

Fouts recorded every out except one in the tournament and finished with a 1.00 ERA. She was named the tournament MVP. Despite the feat she accomplished this weekend, Fouts said she is more focused on what is to come.

“The awards are great and I’m really thankful for them, but it’s about the endgame,” Fouts said.

The Alabama offense struck quickly and put up three runs in the opening frame through three hits, a Florida error and a run down situation that allowed sophomore Jenna Johnson to score. 

Johnson plated the Crimson Tide’s first run of the inning due to a squeeze bunt. Head Coach Patrick Murphy said the call to make Johnson lay down the squeeze bunt was “making his stomach turn like crazy.” 

Graduate student Taylor Clark plated the fourth and final run of the game in the sixth inning with a single to left field to score senior K.B. Sides. Murphy said Clark’s RBI was a “key hit” as it added extra insurance. 

Clark, Hemphill and graduate student Alexis Mack were named to the All-Tournament team. Hemphill launched three home runs in the tournament and hit for a .600 average. Mack went 4-for-9 with a .444 batting average, and Clark had two hits and some defensive plays. 

Murphy said the atmosphere inside Rhoads stadium throughout the tournament was comparable to the Women’s College World Series. 

Now Alabama waits to be seeded in the postseason. The Crimson Tide will likely host both regionals and super regionals. The NCAA Selection Show is Sunday, May 16, at 8 p.m. CT. It can be watched on ESPN2.