The dust has settled, Champions have been crowned, and the bases have been pulled from the diamond and stored away. Though the Alabama season ended in an unfortunate way, there is still much to celebrate about Team25.
RBR posted a Team25 Softball Preview back in February that tallied all of six comments. By May, comments exploded into the hundreds. Many of you have been fans all along but we also picked up a few along the way. And, boy, some of you are really passionate! For all of you that engaged in the 25th season with us, we thank you. It just goes to show that Alabama fans are ...
SEASON IN REVIEW
The preseason polls unanimously tabbed the Crimson Tide as the No. 8 ranked team. Much of this was based on who the Tide had coming back as super-seniors.
If not for the below tweet, we might never have known that former Alabama football player and AD Bill Battle, generously picked up the tab for the Bama 7.
Former #Alabama AD Bill Battle donated the money to help @AlabamaSB bring the 7 seniors back for this 2021 season according to @UACoachMurphy. Six super-seniors will graduate with a master's degree and Krystal Goodman will graduate with two undergraduate degrees.— Roger Hoover (@Roger_Hoover) January 15, 2021
These seven include Bailey Hemphill, Alexis Mack, Elissa Brown, Taylor Clark, Claire Jenkins, Krystal Goodman, and Sarah Cornell.
Early on, it looked like the overprotective fear-mongerers might get their way. But the leadership at the SEC offices pushed forward and got 2021 softball set up on a full schedule. The Crimson Tide was initially scheduled to travel to Texas to play the Longhorns and Arizona, among others, but freaky cold weather conditions caused a cancellation. Greg Byrne and his office scrambled for a replacement and landed the Tide in Montgomery where Bama kicked off the season with a pair 10-0 run-rule wins over Alabama State (no-hitter) and Notre Dame (2-hitter).
The Tide returned home for a double header with Louisville. They swept the Cardinals in a pair of shutouts but the real story was that the home openers were not open, nor viewable. No fans or live streaming were set up for these two games, thus bringing out CB’s first rant of the year. We also saw Patrick Murphy allowing Lexi Kilfoyl to bat for herself.
After some pressure from fans, it was announced going forward that ALL Bama games would be shown on SECN+ if not being aired on a regular network. Another development was the allowance of approximately 30 percent seating capacity at Rhoads Stadium.
Alabama started the season on a tear winning 19 straight including a second stretch of four straight shutouts that saw a two game sweep of LSU and a Kilfoyl no-hitter of UNC.
Everything was going swimmingly until a bewildering home loss to South Alabama on March 7. The opposing pitcher, Olivia Lackie, held the Tide batters to three hits - two to Claire Jenkins - in a 1-0 shutout. [SIDE NOTE: Lackie would finish the season 19-12 with a 2.34 ERA.]
Bama would start the SEC season the next weekend with a sweep of Auburn. That was fun to type. Let me do that again: A SWEEP OF AUBURN. Ah, delicious.
Someone call the police. There’s been a murder:
Back at Rhoads the next weekend, Alabama took two out of three against Tennessee, but the biggest lost was Bailey Dowling who tore an ACL and MCL that ended her season. Savannah Woodard did an admirable job of filling in but it wasn’t the same. At the time, the fab freshman was hitting .306 with 6 HR and 25 RBI. To tell you how hot of season she was off to, up until the last week of the Bama season Dowling was still third on the team in RBIs. Woodard finished the 2021 campaign just one RBI ahead of her. Claire Jenkins would join her on the DL a month later with a torn ACL, the second of her Alabama career.
Earlier in the year, Murphy was playing Taylor Clark ahead of returning starter Maddie Morgan at third base - much to the chagrin of many fans. Suddenly, Clark was the full-time starting shortstop with Morgan returning to the hot corner.
A trip north to Lexington started out bad and got worse as the weekend progressed. Bama won the first game but Kentucky native Montana Fouts uncharacteristically gave up six runs. In Game 2, Kilfoyl could not get out of the fourth inning after allowing four runs in a loss. In the rubber game, Bama blew a 4-0 lead in the sixth and eventually lost in an eighth inning walk-off after Coach Patrick Murphy instructed two consecutive intentionally walks with a runner on third and one out.
Suddenly, some doubts were creeping in among Tide fans.
After regrouping at home, Alabama won six of their next seven. Little did Crimson Tide fans know, Kilfoyl would not throw another pitch for over a month due to a mystery injury that only the elite of the Crimson enTidelment were allowed to know about. The hoi polloi were scolded that they ought not question such things.
Then, the hated Florida Gators came to town. Fouts was the hard-luck loser in the opening match by the score of 2-0. In the second game, a patchwork combination of Krystal Goodman, Sarah Cornell, and Jaala Torrence were shelled for nine runs but only three earned. Fouts would salvage the series on Sunday thanks to the Gators’ charitable errors.
THE RUN & THE RING
Bama would start another streak, winning the final ten games of the regular season and three straight over ranked teams in the SEC Tournament for a Conference Championship. This included a “revenge” win over Florida for the trophy.
Fouts recorded all but one out and was named the Tournament MVP.
The streak continued as the Crimson Tide ran roughshod over the Regional foes sweeping a pair from overmatched ACC Champ Clemson. It also marked the welcome return of Kilfoyl to the circle.
In the Super Regional, it was again redemption time as the two Bama aces handled Kentucky in two game to advance to OK City.
The Tide got off to a rousing start in their 13th WCWS appearance with Hemphill and Abby Doerr going yard, and Fouts two-hitting Arizona for an opening round W.
Fouts followed up her Game 1 performance with a historic perfect game victory over UCLA.
It was a great moment for the Tide ace and the softball program. But Patrick Murphy could have used some Nick Saban wisdom. The Alabama football coach has a 24-hour rule of celebrating a win and then it’s on to the next task. Team25 probably could’ve used some abbreviated version of that.
Against FSU, the bats fell silent with Alabama managing only two singles in a 2-0 loss. They were eliminated the next day by the ‘Noles after Fouts unexpectedly gave up seven runs in the first two and two thirds innings of work. Hemphill hit one final Bailey Bomb, but it wasn’t enough in the 8-5 defeat.
- Montana Fouts and Bailey Hemphill were voted unanimous First Team NFCA All-Americans.
- Kaylee Tow was selected third team All-American.
- Fouts was named the 2021 Schutt Sports/NFCA Pitcher of the Year
- Hemphill was selected SEC Player of the Year. She finished the season batting .422 with a .583 on-base percentage and a .766 slugging percentage.
- Elissa Brown and Alexis Mack join Hemphill and Fouts as first team All-SEC. Mack hit .398, stole 25 bases, and scored 63 runs in 2021. Brown finished at .386 with 24 swiped bags.
- Hemphill set the Alabama career record for home runs (64) and is second in career RBIs (240). She is the SEC career walks leader (237).
Brace yourselves. It might be a rebuilding year in 2022.
- Bailey Hemphill C - Graduated
- Elissa Brown CF - Graduated
- Alexis Mack LF - Graduated
- KB Sides RF - Transferring or retiring? Either way, it is doubtful that she will be back with the team in 2022.
- Maddie Morgan 3B - Graduated. Though she has one year left, she has said she is done.
- Taylor Clark INF - Graduated
- Sarah Cornell RHP - Graduated
- Krystal Goodman RHP - Graduated
- Claire Jenkins SS - Graduated
- Montana Fouts RHP
- Lexi Kilfoyl RHP
- Kaylee Tow 1B*
- Bailey Dowling SS*
- Savannah Woodard 2B*
- Jenna Johnson OF*
- Abby Doerr C*
- Kat Grill OF
- Kayla Davis OF - Most appearances in 2021 were pinch-running.
- Jaala Torrence RHP
- Alex Salter RHP - Did not play.
- KJ Haney C/1B
* Projected non-pitching starter.
- Kyra Lockhart IF - Has battled injuries and struggled to crack the starting lineup after four seasons. She has graduated and appears to be planning to pursue a career in the recording industry. Will she be back as a graduate?
- Ashley Prange transfers from Ohio State. One would assume the plan is for her to take over at third base. She has two years of eligibility remaining.
- Dallis Goodnight, OF – Dacula, GA; With a name like that, she HAS to be good.
- Aubrey Barnhart, IF/C – Pleasant View, TN
- Megan Bloodworth, IF – Cordele, GA
- Kali Heivilin, Utility – Three Rivers, MI
- Jenna Lord, Utility – Trussville, AL
- Jordan Stephens, OF – Tampa, FL
In the end, #Team 25 gave it a good ride. The 20 game win streak at the end of the season was fun. As was winning the SECT. They finished the campaign with single digit losses (52-9) for the first time since the 2012 National Championship season (60-8) - only the third time in program history. This team finished among the Final 4 of the WCWS and were unanimous voted No. 3 in the final polls.
I know sometimes the rare reader thinks I am just an angry blogger typing away in my parent’s basement (but for real. Quit stomping all over my Bermuda). But I only want the best Crimson Tide softball - as I do any Alabama sport. If I see an issue, I am going to voice it, as we all should. You want equality in sports with men? This is what comes with it. More money and more attention to the program, at times will bring more scrutiny. But it also brings more rewards. We will be back in February, packing Rhoads and bringing the decibels.