Coming into this season, there were high hopes for the Crimson Tide. This was a team coming off a thrilling Final Four finish at the World Series after all. On paper, it appeared Team24 would be a slight upgrade from Team23. The Tide had their top three pitchers returning, plus the addition of a freshman ace who was the equivalency of a 5-star recruit. In addition, most of their offensive firepower was back, infused with an All-Pac 12 grad-transfer and a strong freshmen class.
However, this Alabama team has not lived up to their preseason #1 ranking. At this point, many are wondering if they should be ranked at all.
The first two weeks of the season saw the Tide play in two tournaments in Florida which left them limping home with a record of 4-5. They had soundly defeated #1/#2 Washington in a run rule victory (now 17-2) but also fell to lowly North Carolina (currently 7-11). The triumph over UW is starting to look like an anomaly since it is now their only win over a ranked team in seven tries.
GAME 1 - Alabama 11 UT-Arlington 3 (5 innings)
Alabama continued their dominance over mid-major teams, jumping all over the Mavericks for eight runs in the first two innings. Again, it was the top of the order of Alexis Mack (single), Skylar Wallace (double) and KB Sides (2-run single) getting things going with three straight hits to start the game. Maddie Morgan would sac fly in a third run in the first inning for the early lead. In the second, Jenna Johnson walked ahead of Savannah Woodard’s bomb over the right center field wall. Mack, Wallace and Sides would again get consecutive hits to make the score 7-0. After the Mavs came back to make it 8-3, the Tide offense got three more in the fourth to put the run-rule back in effect.
Montana Fouts kicked off the weekend in the circle with a decent start but ran into some trouble in the third inning with her team up 8-0. Although the three runs scored by UTA were unearned, Fouts did yield four singles in the inning, three with one out. After that hiccup, the sophomore settled down and closed out the win.
GAME 2 - Arizona 2 Alabama 1
On a Friday night, the air was cold and so were the bats. Both teams pushed a single run across the plate in the opening frame, followed by donuts through six innings. Lexi Kilfoyl settled in well, striking out the side in the second and two in the third. Arizona went hitless from the second until a Wildcat singled with two out in the sixth but that runner would be stranded. Finally in the top of the seventh, a walk and a stolen base (fifth on the night for Zona) was followed by a groundout and a single to push the go ahead run across. Alabama wilted in their half of the inning, including Kilfoyl’s third strikeout at the plate on the day. She is now hitting .091 on the season.
GAME 3 - Alabama 3 UT-Arlington 2
The rematch with UTA was not as easy as the first meeting. With Sarah Cornell toeing the rubber, the game was hitless until Woodard led off the bottom of the third with a single to left center. Two batters later, she stood on third with two outs, and scored an unearned run on a throwing error. In the fourth, Bama scored two more on four singles but left the bases loaded. In the bottom of the inning, Cornell got the first two outs and then surrendered three straight singles to make it a one-run game. After walking the leadoff batter in the fifth, Patrick Murphy pulled the senior in favor of Krystal Goodman who slammed the door with two innings of hitless relief. Alabama was fortunate to get out of this one alive. They accrued only six hits and none from the top three hitters. On the bright side, Bama played flawless in the field.
GAME 4 - Arizona 6 Alabama 5
Ouch. This one really hurt. It looked like the Crimson Tide had finally gotten over a hump when things fell apart with two outs in the seventh inning. Arizona started off the scoring with two runs in the third against Kilfoyl, only to see Bama strike right back with two of their own. The Wildcats retook the lead with a run in the fourth and it stayed that way until Alabama broke the game open with three runs to take a 5-3 advantage in the sixth. With a boisterous crowd behind her, Kilfoyl got the first two out. On the next six pitches, Arizona went single, single, home run. In the bottom of the inning, Woodard doubled with one out but Doerr and Mack could not advance her.
GAME 5 - Alabama 4 McNeese State 0
Fortunately, the Crimson Tide did not let the events of Saturday night get them down as they scored two in the opening frame including a solo shot by Hemphill, her second of the season. Morgan drove in a run in the third, and Sides doubled in a fourth run in the next inning. It was a nice little win to cap the weekend but not a lot of firepower with only six hits, all coming from the top five hitters in the lineup.
On Krystal Goodman’s Senior Day, the Mississippi native was masterful for most of the day until the dreaded seventh inning, A Cowgirls single and double put two runners in scoring position with one out. After a nicely fielded groundout to Morgan held the runners at their stations, Goodman got the strikeout to finish a 4-hit, 6-strikeout shutout.
After last weekend gave Tide fans so much hope that they had righted the ship, it is more of the same: beating the mid-majors and falling to Power-5. The fielding has improved, as has the pitching. A glaring issue this weekend was the power outages at the bottom of the lineup.
STATS AND STUFF
- Alabama is now a mundane 12-7 on the season. The Tide is 1-4 in one run games.
- In all five games this weekend, the Crimson Tide lineup was Mack-Wallace-Sides-Hemphill. The top three had a big weekend. Hemphill did not get too many pitches in the strike zone to hit, walking six times. If Sides and Hemphill would swap places in the lineup, it might remedy that situation. Morgan and a struggling Kaylee Tow shared the five-spot duties with the former finding more success - 6 RBI to 1.
- Mack stole four more bases to give her 12 on the year.
- Wallace was 7 of 16 with three extra base hits and scored 7 runs, yet she had only 1 RBI and left seven runners aboard.
- Alabama was without Fouts after Friday as she was reportedly down with the flu.
- Sides gets the offensive tournament MVP, batting 7 for 15 including a pair of doubles. She scored six runs and knocked in six.
- Goodman threw 9 shutout innings over two games, surrendering only four hits. Depending on how long Fouts is out, the senior could be the Tide’s number two pitcher.
- In the two games with Arizona, the ‘Cats were successful on all seven steal attempts against Abby Doerr. The freshman catcher has been decent behind the plate but one has to wonder if it is all too much too soon for her. She was 0-for-the-weekend at the dish and her batting average has dipped to .158. Murphy has not asked my opinion but the recent high school graduate could probably profit from sitting a game and watching with her coaches by her side.
- Jenna Johnson was 2 for 11 and left six runners on base. However, she has filled in well defensively in center field.
- As mentioned above, Kilfoyl struck out in her three times at plate in Game 2. She did not bat for herself in Game 4. Perhaps Murphy has wised up.
Alabama continues their home stand with a midweek game against Alcorn State (6pm CT), followed by the Tide’s first SEC opponent of the season in the Arkansas Razorbacks (16-4). Rain is expected in T-town Monday through Thursday, increasing the possibility of Bama and Alcorn delaying their meeting until later in the season. The Hogs have not had the most challenging of schedules having played only two ranked teams, Baylor and FSU, and losing both by a run.
Fri. March 6, 6:00pm vs Arkansas
Sat. March 7, 2:00pm vs Arkansas
Sun. March 8, 1:30pm vs Arkansas
The weather is supposed to be nice, so come on out to the park. Otherwise, all games should be available on SECN+.