It wasn’t a sweep, but the Crimson Tide took down a tough Tennessee team two games to one.
GAME ONE: TENNESSEE 4 ALABAMA 3 - POWER OUTAGE
KB Sides led off the game with a double followed by a bunt single by Alexis Mack who stole second. On that latter play, the pickoff attempt trickled off a Tennessee glove allowing Sides to score and sending Mack to third. Recognizing that the Vols were being lackadaisical about getting the ball back into the infield, Patrick Murphy waived Mack around to score for an early 2-0 lead.
After an exciting start, the Tide offense slowed to a crawl with nary a single Bama batter reaching base against UT’s Ashley Rogers until Sides walked in the sixth with one out. Alabama would not get another hit in the game until the seventh, their last of the game.
Montana Fouts was not at her sharpest, yielding at least one hit in five out of seven innings and failed to pitch a 1-2-3 frame. Tennessee led off the fourth with a single and a double for their first run. A double play emptied the bases but the threat was not over. A walk and two singles plated two more Vols putting Bama down 2-3.
Tennessee got a fourth run in the sixth while the Tide bats remained ice cold until Bailey Dowling homered to lead off the seventh to make it only a one run deficit. Claire Jenkins walked, followed by a fly out and a Taylor Clark whiff. Then Murphy decided it was time to tick CB off again by pinch-hitting Lexi Kilfoyl for Elissa Brown (batting average .356) with the top of the order set to follow. And of course, the Bama pitcher struck out to end the game.
Alabama uncharacteristically had three errors in the game: two by Jenkins at shortstop and one by Kaylee Tow at first.
It was not the best of efforts by the home team.
GAME TWO: ALABAMA 7 TENNESSEE 1 - BAT EXPLOSION
It was a whole different ballgame with Vols All-American Ashley Rogers not pitching. The Bama bats woke up with ten hits and feasted on four UT errors. But it wasn’t all smiles on the day.
Disaster struck in the second inning when fab freshman Bailey Dowling was covering first base on a play and her foot awkwardly landed on the base causing her to collapse to the turf in pain. After a bit of a delay, she had to be helped - basically carried - off the field. The Vols runner had moved to second on the play, took third on a ground out, and scored on a wild pitch by Lexi Kilfoyl. The next two batters reached on a double and a Taylor Clark error but Kifoyl got out of the inning and shut out the Tennessee the rest of the way.
Bama would take a 3-1 lead in the fourth on two hits and two Tennessee errors. Bailey Hemphill would smack a signature bomb to left center in the fifth and a two-RBI single in the sixth to push the lead to 6-1. A seventh run would cross the plate on a Claire Jenkins ground out.
Note: Alabama and the SEC were wearing teal uniforms Saturday for Alex Wilcox Day.
Savannah Woodard, who entered the game for Dowling, collected two hits on the day. Kaylee Tow also recorded two safeties. With the win, Kilfoyl moves to 10-0 on the season.
GAME THREE: ALABAMA 3 TENNESSEE 0 - REDEEMED
It was redemption day for Montana Fouts (9-2) in a rematch of aces. After a rough Game 1, she bounced back to pitch an eight strikeout, six hit shutout. The Tide offense again struggled against Tennessee’s Ashley Rogers (10-4) but finally figured her out in the fifth inning of a scoreless game. Rogers had a no-hitter going until Bama strung two walks and three singles together to put the Crimson Tide up 3-0. Those three hits were the only ones Alabama managed on the day, but they were enough.
STATS ‘N’ STUFF
*** It’s time for tough talk. If you cannot take honest analysis and would rather hear sunshine and lollipops, stop reading here and pop on down to the UP NEXT section.
- The Crimson Tide regular season is halfway over. The time for experimenting is over.
- Taylor Clark (.121, 4 hits, 13 Ks, 2 errors) probably should not be starting against Power teams anymore. Her defense is no better than that of Maddie Morgan and she is not producing at the plate.
- Lexi Kilfoyl (.188) had a single on Sunday but it doesn’t justify why she is getting so many opportunities to hit. Sarah Cornell (.000) has not produced either. Savannah Woodard (3 for 7, 2 runs scored in the last two games) and Kat Grill (.313) have both been playing really well lately and deserve the at bats. Patrick Murphy will have quite the dilemma whether to let Woodard waste away on the bench when Bailey Dowling comes back from her injury.
- It is unclear why Murphy left struggling Montana Fouts in Game 1 with so many rested and capable pitchers in the bullpen.
- The Alabama radio team said Fouts was not getting strike calls on her drop ball which could explain her issues in Game 1. Is it too much to ask for a little consistency in college softball umpiring??? We are not here to see you, blue.
- Fouts and Kilfoyl have pitched every inning of the last seven games.
- Tennessee has some very good players. Worth mentioning are P/DP Ashley Rogers, CF Kiki Milloy, RF Amanda Ayala, LF Cailin Hannon, and 1B Madison Webber.
- No report on Bailey Dowling’s knee has been released as of yet. Her near collision at first has brought a few cries for the “safety base” to be used in college softball. Watch this video and let us know in comments how you feel about that.
- Claire Jenkins went ofer-the-weekend for the second straight series but scored two runs thanks to three walks. She has not gotten a hit since the South Alabama game on March 7.
- KB Sides looked like her old self at the plate. She scored two runs and had two RBI.
- Bailey Hemphill is now five home runs away from breaking Kelly Kretschman’s career record of 60.
- Hemphill caught Kiki Milloy stealing in Game 3, which was the first time the Vol has been thrown out in 17 attempts this season.
- Despite the way some folks interpret my softball rants on RBR, I do like most of Patrick Murphy’s managing style. One aspect I especially like is his aggressive approach to base running. Bama has a lot of speed and smarts. Mack and Brown might be two of the fastest starting players in the nation. Sides, Jenkins, Hemphill, Tow, Dowling and others are well-trained in advancing to the next base as well. I don’t mind a Tide runner getting thrown out at third or at the plate every now and then. The risk is worthwhile. It’s like Nate Oats’s strategy in basketball to shoot more threes. They are a lower percentage shots than twos, but they put more pressure on the other team to stop you.
- Nine different Alabama players have stolen a base this season. Brown leads the team with 14 of 16.
- Arkansas now leads the SEC at 6-0. Bama and Florida are both 5-1. UGA is 2-1.
- Wednesday, March 24, 2021 vs. North Alabama 6 p.m. CT - rain in the forecast.
- Thursday, March 25, 2021 at Kentucky 1 p.m. CT
- Friday, March 26, 2021 at Kentucky 2:30 p.m. CT
- Saturday, March 27, 2021 at Kentucky 6 p.m. CT