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Alabama Softball: Crunch Time Approaching

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The Crimson Tide is 6-3 in conference play.

Kat Grill (32) and Lexi Kilfoyl (44) welcome Kaylee Tow (12) home after her home run.

It was not a good week for Alabama. Both men’s and women’s basketball got ousted from their tournaments. Baseball got swept. Even the soccer team lost to Awbern.

And the Crimson Tide softball lost two of three to Kentucky.

GAME ONE: ALABAMA 11, KENTUCKY 6 - HIT PARADE

Wildcats coach Rachel Lawson threw a curve ball that didn’t curve by starting part-time pitcher/full time right fielder Tatum Spangler in the circle instead of her ace. In three starts, she was 3-0 with a 0.55 ERA, but had not pitched against a team of Alabama’s caliber. The Tide rocked her for three runs in the third inning, highlighted by KB Sides’s double.

In the fifth, singles by Elissa Brown and Alexis Mack were followed by Bailey Hemphill knocking the cover off the ball for her sixth round-tripper of the season to put the Tide up 6-0.

Montana Fouts is a fantastic pitcher. But sometimes in the midst of a terrific performance, she has issues. Through four shutout innings, she had eight strikeouts. However, things went south in the fifth. After going 0-2 on the lead off hitter, she walked the Wildcat and seemed a bit upset about it. The next two batters delivered a single and a run scoring double which prompted a visit from coach Patrick Murphy. The next UK batter grounded meekly to Fouts but she threw the ball wildly over first base and two more would score. Kentucky would score one more run before the Tide could get out of the inning up only 6-4.

By the seventh inning, Kentucky had used four different pitchers plus having one of them re-enter the circle. Bama badgered the ‘Cats for five more runs, two on a Kaylee Tow homer, two on a Taylor Clark double, and one on a Brown single.

In the sixth, Fouts retired UK in order but again faltered in the seventh allowing two to score on two hits and a second throwing error by the starting pitcher. Lexi Kilfoyl entered the game and got three straight outs to end the rally.

Bama had 13 hits, UK 8. Brown was 4 for 4.

GAME TWO: KENTUCKY 4, ALABAMA 2 - SLEEPWALKING

Clearly the Crimson Tide did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express the previous night because they looked totally out of sorts in this game. Bama committed four errors and looked listless at the plate outside of KB Sides. Lexi Kilfoyl had her worst outing of the year, allowing four runs on seven hits. Although two of the runs were unearned, the Wildcats were making solid connections on many pitches and making noisy outs. UK leadoff hitters reached base in three out of four innings she pitched. UK scored one run each in the first and third innings, two in the fourth.

Jaala Torrence relieved Kilfoyl with two outs in the fourth inning and induced a rally-ending ground out. The freshman pitched a shutout fifth but allowed two hits. She was relieved after one batter in the sixth frame by Sarah Cornell who had not pitched since March 6 against Northern Iowa. The super-senior made it through the inning unscathed, but the Bama bats could do nothing more against Autumn Humes. The Wildcats’ ace went the distance allowing two runs on six hits. Sides had two doubles and Bailey Hemphill had two seeing-eye singles.

Murphy again let Kilfoyl hit for herself. In the first inning, she stranded runners at first and third and then immediately had to quickly shift gears and get in pitching mode. She looked about as ineffective in a first inning as she has all year. For this reason and potential injuries, pitchers should not hit unless they have proven they are better than every other player on the bench.

GAME THREE: KENTUCKY 5, ALABAMA 4 - MELTDOWN

It was like deja vu all over again. Montana Fouts was cruising along with a 4-0 lead, shutting out the ‘Cats through five innings. In the sixth, Kentucky’s bats came alive. After three batters, it was suddenly 4-2. Two more singles and Fouts was out of the game. Lexi Kilfoyl got out of the inning without another run crossing the plate but was not so lucky in the seventh.

Kilfoyl uncharacteristically gave up gopher balls to the first two batters and just like that, we had a tie ball game.

In the top of the eighth, Elissa Brown reached base on a fielding error and took second on what I am calling fielder’s interference (because the SECN crew was too stupid to realize it). Little did we know that Autumn Humes’s dad had taken over behind home plate. KB Sides was ahead 3-0 in the count when a low way outside pitch was suddenly now considered a strike by the home plate umpire. Sides took two strikes outside and was then forced to swing at those godawful pitches. After a couple of foul balls, she struck out. The same thing happened to Alexis Mack and the threat was over. Ironically, the first batter for the ‘Cats in the bottom of the frame walked on five pitches. Then things got really wacky.

The next batter struck out but Hemphill could not corral the ball, the batter ran to first base but by rule, this is not allowed if first base is occupied. Kaylee Tow did not cover first when Hemphill made an unnecessary throw and the ball sailed into the right field corner. The lead runner made it all the way to third. With one out, Patrick Murphy intentionally walked the next TWO batters. The next batter grounded to short but apparently the throw home was late, though the call could have gone either way. That is if anyone other than Daddy Humes was the ump.

STATS ‘N’ STUFF

*** Here we go again. It’s time for tough talk. If you cannot take honest analysis and would rather hear about puppy dogs, magic fairies, and gumdrops, there are plenty of “Yes” men and women out there that will blow sunshine up your you-know-where.

  • Alabama is 30 games in with 19 left to play. This team should be locked in by now. However, there does not seem to be a real identity to this Jekyll and Hyde team.
  • It is hard to understand why Murphy has soured on Maddie Morgan after she was the everyday starting third baseman the last two seasons. She is hitting .231 but much of that can be attributed to lack of playing time. When players waste away on the bench, they tend to lose their edge and any rhythm. Taylor Clark started the first two games of the series and had a big double but it was her only hit of the series. She is hitting .128 with an on base average of .171.
  • Morgan started Game 3 and had RBIs in both of her at bats but for some reason was lifted for Clark in the sixth. The Tide probably could have used Morgan’s hot bat in the top of the eighth inning when Clark popped out.
  • Kilfoyl had two hits in Game 1 against the bad UK pitchers, but was 0 for 7 the rest of the way. She had strikeouts in all three games and four for the series. In Game 2, she left four runners on base, including two in the seventh with a rally on the line, to end the game. Her batting average drops to .192 on the season. I really want her to be good at the plate but something is off. The NCAA probably does not allow for as much practice time she needs in the bullpen and in the batting cages. IMHO, I’d like to see her concentrate fully on pitching. Let’s give Kat Grill and/or Kayla Davis a shot at designated player.
  • Claire Jenkins recorded only her second hit against SEC foes this season. The first was vs LSU on Feb 20. She has a batting average of .087 against conference foes. She does, however, have seven walks in those ten games and a .393 on base percentage for the season.
  • Bama had seven errors in the three games, and at least one in each game.
  • In Game 1, Lexi Kilfoyl got absolutely robbed by a ridiculous phantom “foul tip” strikeout call by the home plate umpire that the Tide designated hitter did not even swing at. Replays showed the ball did not even come close to hitting her bat.
  • In Game 3, Kilfoyl was screwed again by the umpires. The UK leadoff hitter in the seventh had a full count on her and took a check swing that sure looked like she swung enough to be called strike three. On appeal the other ump said “no swing”. Replays said otherwise. The next pitch was a home run.
  • Bailey Hemphill hit .455 with 6 RBI and got a hit in every game of the series. The Tide will need that consistency to contend for trophies this spring. Though she is having defensive difficulties, it is not her fault. After being at first base for most of her Tide career, she was moved behind the plate because there are no other better options.
  • KB Sides has a hit, run, or RBI in 16 out of 18 games she has played in this season. She had four doubles against Kentucky but scored only twice.
  • Elissa Brown has struck out only one time this season. She was 4 for 10 against UK and scored five runs.
  • Savannah Woodard was 3 for 4 in Game 3 and flashed some slick leather at second base.
  • I am a bit concerned with this Crimson Tide team. Murphy is making some odd personnel moves and the team needs something to motivate and excite them like they were earlier on in the season. They are basically a lock for the post-season and probably make it to a super-regional, but they need to step up their game.
  • I don’t know what to do with Kilfoyl and Fouts. It feels like their struggles begin when they don’t get the pitches called they way they want. I would recommend more mound visits by Hemphill when this occurs. Perhaps relaxation exercises. Maybe have Mac Jones over as a guest speaker. There is one guy who doesn’t let mistakes eat at him.
  • It won’t happen but I’d like to see a shake up in the lineup. My suggestion:
  1. Brown
  2. Mack
  3. Sides
  4. Hemphill
  5. Tow
  6. Morgan
  7. Jenkins
  8. Woodard
  9. Grill

UP NEXT

The schedule does not get any easier. The Aggies are an improved team (23-5). Then comes SEC first place team #15 Arkansas, followed by #5 Florida, #16 ULL (two games), #17 UGA and unranked Ole Miss. The Crimson Tide needs to put these last three games behind them and charge ahead.

  • Thursday, April 1, vs Texas A&M 5 pm CT - SECN
  • Friday, April 2, vs Texas A&M 5 pm CT - SECN+
  • Saturday, April 3, vs Texas A&M 11 am CT - SECN

#Team25 #RollTide