Softball shuts out Chattanooga in first game of NCAA Regional


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama pitcher Montana Fouts (14) throws a pitch in the Crimson Tide’s 3-0 victory over the Chattanooga Mocs on May 20 at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Blake Byler, Assistant Sports Editor

Alabama took one step closer to Oklahoma City Friday afternoon.

The sixth-seeded Crimson Tide (42-11) won its 44th consecutive game in regional play, defeating Chattanooga (29-26) in Game 1 of the Tuscaloosa Regional by a final score of 3-0 inside Rhoads Stadium.

“It’s a good win to start the regional,” Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. “We’re just hoping to go out and get better with every game.”

Redshirt freshman Alex Salter (4-0) started in the circle for Alabama, and it was clear from the start that the Mocs were going to bat aggressively against her. Chattanooga recorded only one hit in the first frame, but three out of four batters that Salter faced swung at the first pitch.

The Mocs developed a pattern through the first three innings. Each inning featured a hit into left center field, while every other batter in the inning was put out. Salter’s performance was efficient, totaling only 30 pitches through the first three innings.

In the top of the fourth inning with runners on first and second, Murphy subbed Salter in favor of senior Montana Fouts to avoid giving up a run — as Alabama’s bats were still ice cold. Salter gave up four hits while striking out one batter. She didn’t give up a run in 3.1 innings pitched.

Fouts’ impact was immediately felt as she struck out the first two batters she faced.

“We were hoping not to have to use Montana [Fouts],” Murphy said. “But it’s 0-0 when we have no hits, and they have four. With [runners on] first and second, I wasn’t going to take that chance.”

Fouts was excellent the entirety of her performance, striking out seven batters and giving Chattanooga a noticeably more difficult time at the plate. The Mocs recorded three hits against Fouts in 3.2 innings.

“She’s really gritty,” senior catcher Ally Shipman said of Fouts. “I think that’s what makes her really dominant as a pitcher. Even if she feels like she’s not the best with her stuff that day, she will outwork you, she will out-grit you, and I think that’s what she did out there today.”

Alabama finally found its offense in the fourth inning, as sophomore Bailey Dowling sent a solo home run over the left field wall to give Alabama its first run of the game. The home run put Dowling at 10 on the season, making her the only Alabama batter with double digit home runs.

“I said if it’s a bad pitch and you’re going to swing, you’ve got to give it your all,” Dowling said. “I saw it there and gave it my whole heart. We wanted to pass the bat down and it just happened to be a home run.”

The Crimson Tide had more in the tank in the fourth as well. With the bases loaded and no outs, freshman Megan Bloodworth sent a sac fly into deep center, allowing Shipman to tag up and score.

The very next inning the bats stayed hot.

Freshman Jenna Lord knocked an RBI single into shallow left field to bring in pinch runner M’Kay Gilder, building the Crimson Tide lead to 3-0. The run forced the Mocs to make a pitching change.

The pitching change would be enough to hold Alabama for the remainder of the game, but the Crimson Tide defense stood firm behind Fouts as the shutout was secured.

After the game, Murphy provided an update on injured pitcher Lexi Kilfoyl.

“It’s totally up to her, the doctor, and the athletic trainer,” Murphy said. “If she feels good enough to do it, then she’ll do it. She pitched this week in practice too, so it’s very encouraging.”

With the win, Alabama moves into the winners’ bracket of the regional. The Crimson Tide now awaits the winner of Murray State and Stanford. Alabama will play its next opponent Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. CT.

“If you don’t show respect to who you’re playing, they will beat you,” Murphy said. “Period.”