Softball’s season ends with loss to Stanford in NCAA Regional final


Courtesy of UA Athletics

Alabama’s Montana Fouts (14) throws a pitch in the Crimson Tide’s 6-0 loss to the Stanford Cardinal on May 22 at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Blake Byler, Assistant Sports Editor

That’s a wrap for Team 26.

After losing a game on Saturday, No. 6 Alabama needed to win back-to-back games against Stanford Sunday afternoon to avoid elimination in the Tuscaloosa Regional. With two wins, the Crimson Tide would advance to the Super Regionals for the 17th straight tournament.

The Crimson Tide (44-13) shut out the Cardinal (39-20) in the first game, 4-0, but fell in the ensuing rematch 6-0, ending Alabama’s season.

“We’re playing for something bigger than ourselves here,” Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. “The relationships, everybody involved in the program, their teammates, their coaches. That’s something we can treasure for a lifetime, and that’s something I’m trying to teach these young ladies.”

This marks the first time since 2004 that Alabama was eliminated in regional play.

The loss also marks the final game of Kaylee Tow’s collegiate career.

“I don’t have any regrets about my career,” Tow said. “I gave my whole heart to this program. I wasn’t able to put together, I guess, the best season this past year, and it is what it is. But I promise you I gave my all. […] The joy is having people around you that love you for more than what you’re able to do on the field. I can’t thank [Murphy] enough for letting me come here. It’s been the joy of a lifetime and I gave it all I had.”

The first game of the day was the epitome of a pitcher’s duel for the first five innings. The Crimson Tide and the Cardinal traded impressive defensive plays, with the Alabama defense going to work behind starting pitcher Montana Fouts, who finished the game with five strikeouts.

The turning point of the game was a tag out at home by senior catcher Ally Shipman in the fourth inning to get the Crimson Tide out of a bases-loaded jam. Alabama followed the out with a huge fifth inning, posting four runs. The first came off a single by freshman Jenna Lord that had enough spin to change directions and miss the Stanford first baseman, allowing Shipman to score.

The run was the first scored by Alabama against Stanford in 13 innings of play in the regional.

The inning was capped off by a two-run pinch hit double from sophomore KJ Haney, which brought an explosion of cheers from the Alabama dugout and the Crimson Tide faithful that came early to Rhoads Stadium for the 10 a.m. first pitch.

“I saw mostly changeups,” Haney said. “I spent the whole first five innings of the game watching what right handed hitters got, and made a plan based on that. I knew she was going to throw some changeups to me after my at bat yesterday. After I got the second strike, I just widened my stance.”

Game 2 was once again a low scoring slugfest for the majority of the game. Both teams continued their stellar defensive performances from the first game, while Fouts returned to the circle for a second time and finished with two strikeouts in 6.1 innings.

Fouts was pulled after giving up three runs in the seventh inning. She threw a total of 245 pitches on the day.

“Talk about gritty, and tough, and amazing,” Stanford coach Jessica Allister said of Fouts. “What a phenomenal performance. […] I couldn’t be more impressed with her as a competitor.”

The first hit of the game did not come until the third inning, and the first run of the game came in the top of the sixth. With runners on second and third, Cardinal batter Aly Kaneshiro knocked a hit into deep center field that Alabama’s Dallis Goodnight could not get underneath. The double brought in two Stanford runners, ending a 12-inning scoring drought against the Crimson Tide.

“Honestly, I was just trying to put a good swing on a good pitch,” Kaneshiro said. “That’s what I tried to do all weekend.”

The Cardinal added more in the seventh with a two-run single from Sydnee Huff, which was followed up with a throwing error over Shipman’s head at home bringing in a third run in the inning.

Alabama fell short of a seventh inning rally as Stanford secured its Super Regional berth.

“I thought our team defense was the best it’s been in years,” Murphy said. “The pitching staff, up and down, was good. I think our hitters are going to get better as they get older. […] I’m excited about the future because we have a bunch of people coming back.”