Softball set to host NCAA Regional

Blake Byler, Assistant Sports Editor

The road to Oklahoma City starts in Tuscaloosa.

Last weekend, Alabama softball (41-11, 16-8 SEC) was selected as the No. 6 national seed in the NCAA Softball Tournament, marking the 23rd straight tournament the Crimson Tide has appeared in. It is also the 17th straight tournament in which Alabama has received a national seed.

Because the Crimson Tide was selected as a top-8 seed, it will host the Regional round in Tuscaloosa, and potentially the Super Regional round if it were to advance.

History is on Alabama’s side this weekend, as the Crimson Tide has never missed a Super Regional in its existence and has won 43 straight games in the regional round dating back to 2007.

The regional will take place May 20-22 inside Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa. The format of the round is a 4-team double elimination bracket, where Alabama will first be matched up with Chattanooga.

Alabama’s opponents consist of Stanford (36-19, 11-13 PAC-12), Chattanooga (29-25, 9-9 SoCon) and Murray State (40-16-1, 21-7 OVC).

The field on paper is not the strongest, as the only Power 5 team in the field besides Alabama had a losing conference record. But if recent play has shown anything, it is that Alabama cannot afford to take any opponents lightly.

“Everyone’s going to be a good team, so it’s good competition,” senior catcher Ally Shipman said. “We’re just excited to showcase our stuff.”

The Crimson Tide dealt with an offensive slump to conclude the regular season, and the slump continued in postseason play as Alabama lost to Missouri 3-0 in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals after receiving a double bye.

Alabama has not scored five runs in a game since April 19.

Despite the offensive struggles, the defense and pitching from Alabama have been stellar. Senior pitcher Montana Fouts has been instrumental to the success of Alabama this season and will be the key to a deep postseason run — much like last postseason where Fouts burst onto the national scene. On the season, Fouts holds a 22-6 record and a 1.93 ERA.

The theme the entire season for Alabama has been getting the key hit and passing the bat down, and when that happens, the Crimson Tide is easily one of the toughest outs in all of college softball. The question of whether Alabama can shake its recent hitting slump remains to be seen.

Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy was adamant when asked if his team’s recent struggles mattered.

“No,” Murphy said. “I think the cool think about the postseason is everybody’s slate is clean, whether you’ve done well or not done well, you’re hot or not. So, we’re going to go in with a fresh start. Everybody’s batting average is .000, and we’ll go from there.”

Those questions will be answered this weekend, as Alabama begins its quest to return to the Women’s College World Series on Friday, May 20. Game 1 of the regional against Chattanooga will begin at 3 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.