Recap | Softball secures World Series opening win

Robert Cortez, Assistant Sports Editor

No. 3 Alabama (51-7) opened the Women’s College World Series on June 3 with a 5-1 win over the No. 11 Arizona Wildcats (41-14). Thursday night’s victory marked the program’s first opening round win in Oklahoma City since 2014.

“It helps to stay in the winner’s bracket and it gives us confidence,” junior Montana Fouts said. 

Head coach Patrick Murphy said Fouts’ (26-3; 1.46 ERA) performance against the Wildcats was “one of her best” in a Crimson Tide uniform. Fouts struck out eight of the nine batters in the Arizona lineup and struck out the side in three innings.  

The Kentucky native’s 16 strikeouts in the opener marked her 21st double-digit strikeout performance of the season, and her eighth in a row. 

“That is one hell of a hitting team, and for Montana to do that was pretty special to watch,” Murphy said. 

Fouts gave up two hits. One was a solo home run to graduate student Jessie Harper, who is the active Division I home run leader. This is the first earned run Fouts has given up in her 21 innings pitched against Arizona in her career. 

Jennie Finch, a former national champion at Arizona and two-time Olympic medal winner, witnessed Fouts’ performance inside of ASA Hall of Fame Stadium on Thursday night. 

“That’s really cool because [Finch] is one of my role models and I’ve looked up to her my entire life,” Fouts said. “I’m still a big fan of hers now.”

Kayla Braud, ESPN analyst and former national champion at Alabama, described the Crimson Tide offense in the past as “death by a thousand paper cuts.” Braud said Alabama isn’t the type of offense to score runs quickly, but instead scores by stringing base hits together. 

The Crimson Tide offense proved Braud wrong in its opening round win. Half of its hits were for extra bases, including a pair of home runs. Graduate student Bailey Hemphill added to her program-leading home run record in the top of the second inning. Hemphill’s home run gave Alabama the 2-0 advantage and proved to be the winning run. 

“She’s one of the best we’ve ever had, and probably our best right-handed hitter ever at Alabama,” Murphy said. 

Alabama’s second home run came from sophomore Abby Doerr who only had one long ball this season prior to Thursday night’s contest. The Alabama dugout erupted after Doerr’s two-run home run in the sixth inning. Hemphill said Doerr’s home run was well-deserved. 

“She works so hard and gives everything to make this team better,” Hemphill said. “For her to succeed on this level, on this stage right now, was the coolest part of today.” 

Senior Maddie Morgan was the third player to record an extra base hit in the game. She laced an RBI double to left center field to score sophomore Savannah Woodard. Morgan was the only Alabama batter with a multi-hit game, and she went 2-for-3. 

The Crimson Tide will play on Friday, June 4 against the winner of the No. 2 UCLA and No. 10 Florida State game. The game is at 8:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on ESPN2.