Everyone doubted this Alabama softball team. In the preseason, they were picked to finish eighth in the SEC. “They’ve got a weak schedule, PAAWWLL” griped Florida fans. “They got no pitching, PAAWWLL” bellyached UGA fans. “They gots nobody to hit after Hemphill and Tow, PAAWWLL” babbled LSU fans. “We have another SEC Championship, PAAWWLL!” celebrated Bama fans.
After dropping one spot in the rankings down to No. 4 this past week, Alabama once again faced their doubters headlong and proved them wrong. With the league title on the line in Baton Rouge against No. 9 LSU, the Tide abruptly took three straight and the SEC crown.
Remember that injury that Montana Fouts had a few weeks ago? I think she is doing better! The Fab Freshman won Game 1 and saved Game 2.
Alabama 7 LSU 0
All was right again in the Alabama softball world on Friday. Fouts was back in the circle as the Crimson Tide shut out the Bayou Bengals (hmm... now why does that sound familiar?) and clinched a share of SEC softball title in the progress. After Bailey Hemphill hit a solo shot in the top of the first, the game was a 1-0 pitcher’s duel for six innings. That is until Alabama busted it open with six runs in the seventh. Fouts was again brilliant, tossing a 4-hit complete game shutout.
Meanwhile in Athens, UGA ended Ole Miss’ title hopes with a walk-off win on Friday night 1-0.
Alabama 4 LSU 3
Sarah Cornell (W, 20-1) must be living right as she rang up win #20 despite not having the best stuff in the circle. Alabama struck first with three runs in the third inning thanks to three bases-loaded walks with one out. Unfortunately, the Tide could not get any RBIs the old fashion way in the frame. In the fourth, Maddie Morgan tacked on a fourth run with a solo home run that would prove to be the game winner. Cornell was rolling along with a no-hitter through three but had trouble the second time through the order. LSU scored single runs in the fourth and the fifth, when the leadoff hitter in the sixth sent the 2-0 pitch deep over the left centerfield wall. Coach Patrick Murphy had seen enough and brought in Fouts to slam the door, and that she did retiring all six batters she faced for her fifth save.
Alabama 5 LSU 1
With the title heading back to T-town, the Crimson Tide had their way with the Tigers in Game 3 behind a huge pitching performance by Krystal Goodman (W, 10-0). The junior grew up within spitting distance of the Looziana border in Long Beach, Miss. She had a complete game 5-hitter with 7 strikeouts against two walks. A solo homer in the fourth was followed by the Tigers loading the bases with one out but Murphy stuck with his pitcher and she got out of the jam. LSU would not get another hit in the game. Bama scored all their runs in the fourth inning, sending ten batters to the plate. Kaylee Tow started it off with a monster shot to dead center. Merris Schroder’s 2-run single later in the inning basically put the game away.
With their backs against the wall, the Tide stepped up and won some big games. They seem to play best against the best opposition. The SEC Championship is the Tide’s sixth, previously winning in 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.
FINAL SEC RECORDS:
Ole Miss 13-10
STATS OF THE WEEK
- Hemphill now has 22 round trippers and a 69 RBI. She also has 30 walks in the last 25 games. (They skeered.)
- Stolen bases: Bama 6, LSU 3. Merris Schroder and Elissa Brown had two apiece. The Tide have 128 stolen bases on the season, having been caught only 11 times. Their success rate of 91.4% is tops in the nation.
- Remember back in February when Alabama took two games from Minnesota? Well guess who is now ranked No. 11. The Gophers are now 39-11 and 20-2 in the B1G. They lost out on the conference title by one game to Michigan. Arizona, who the Tide defeated earlier in the season is now 40-10 (17-3) and one poll has them ahead of Bama.
- Fouts pitched nine innings in back-to-back games without surrendering a run.
- Hemphill led the offense. The Lafayette, La. native hit .375 with 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, and 4 BB.
- Kaylee Tow hit .300 with a HR, 2B, 4 RBI, 2 R, and 2 BB.
- Elissa Brown .364 with two stolen bases.
May 8-11, College Station, TX, opponent either Arkansas or UGA.