The Crimson Tide struggled in their first SEC road series of the season.
GAME 1: LSU 13, ALABAMA 6
In the bottom of the first inning, LSU ace pitcher Shelbi Sunseri was at the plate when she fouled a ball that struck her in flush in the face. She had to be removed from the game. The Tigers’ misfortune looked like it might work to the Tide’s advantage, but this event proved early on the advantages of having a deep bullpen.
With Montana Fouts in the circle, most would have thought that Jenna Johnson’s second inning solo shot could be enough for the Tide. However in the bottom of the frame, Fouts was uncharacteristically all over the place with her pitches. The first two Tigers singled but three runs would cross the plate due to pitches out of the strike zone – two by bases loaded walks and one by way of a wild pitch. Fouts would issue free passes to four batters in the inning and looked off and a little frustrated. Oddly enough, all three outs in the inning were strikeouts.
In the third inning, a welcome return of Savannah Woodard paid off when she led off with a solo homer. Ally Shipman would later hit a sac fly to knot the game at 3-3.
But Fouts was still not right. Three hits and two runs allowed later sent Patrick Murphy to the bullpen, inserting Jaala Torrence.
With a 5-3 lead, LSU was going for the win by putting ace Ali Kilponen in to pitch to start the fourth.
Alabama retook the lead in the fifth inning when Johnson singled in two and Megan Bloodworth singled in the sixth run of the day. This game should have led to a win but Torrence fell to pieces surrendering six hits including a three run dinger in the bottom of that same inning. After a triple pushed an eleventh run across the plate, Murphy had no choice but to go to Alex Salter. The RS-freshman got out of the inning but gave up a two run home run to Georgia Clark in the next inning (save that thought for later).
Tide pitching gave up 15 hits, six of which were multi-base hits, and eight walks. Torrence (4-1) took the loss.
GAME 2: LSU 5, ALABAMA 1
Here is an entire summation of the Alabama offense in Game 2: Jenna Johnson hit a second inning solo home run. And then nothing, nothing, nothing. And then more nothing.
LSU’s fourth pitcher Raelin Chaffin, a freshman with no Power 5 pitching experience, one-hit the Tide while striking out five with no walks. She was one pitch away from a perfect game as Johnson was the only Bama player to touch first base.
Lexi Kilfoyl returned to the field for the first time since Feb 26. She was doing fine until she ran into trouble in the third inning. A hit-by-pitch, a single, and a ground out put LSU runners at second and third bases with two outs. This is when Patrick Murphy opted to intentionally walk a Tiger to load the bases for LSU’s leading home run hitter, Georgia Clark (remember her from Game 1?), who promptly deposited the ball over the left field wall for a grand slam.
Another Clark home run in the sixth inning would be the only other hit for LSU for the rest of the game.
Except for facing Clark, Kilfoyl pitched okay, allowing only three hits overall. Kilfoyl did not bat for herself.
GAME 3: ALABAMA 2, LSU 1
Bailey Dowling collected her first RBI of the weekend on a solo round-tripper in the second inning. In the third, Megan Bloodworth picked up a two-out RBI by doubling in Ally Shipman who had singled two batters earlier. And then the outs piled up.
After LSU struck back with one unearned run in the bottom of the inning, Alabama would go down in order in the fourth, fifth, and sixth against Ali Kilponen. Jenna Johnson’s seventh inning base on balls was the only Tide base runner for the rest of the game.
Continuing on her fine weekend, left fielder Jenna Johnson threw out the tying run at the plate to end the fifth.
Montana Fouts rebounded from her Game 1 meltdown with a vintage three hit, one walk, 10 strikeout game. I suppose this is just who Fouts is. 90% of the time, we get a world-beater. But every now and then we are going to get a clunker. Just don’t let it happen in the World Series semifinals (too soon?).
*** Lollipop unicorn rainbow chasers, stop reading here lest ye get your feelings hurt! ***
- I hate to say I told you so, but... Somethings we have been hammering on about Patrick Murphy’s personnel decisions have come home to roost. The main concern is his continued insistence of using Kilfoyl at the plate, mostly because she might get injured running the bases... again. And of course that is exactly what happened. The dominoes falling behind this scenario is the lack of pitching depth behind Fouts and Kilfoyl. On Friday, we had a poll in regards to Fouts’s workload. 40% were okay with it while 58% were concerned. At some point, the Tide has no choice but to turn to Torrence and Salter, neither of whom have proven that they can get SEC/Power 5 competition out on a consistent basis. For the record, the 2023 recruiting class has already been signed with nary a pitcher in sight.
- Second rant: what has happened to the high-powered offense that we saw earlier in the season? College softball has long ago transformed from slap and dash to power hitting. This team has the ability, but for some reason cannot get those big three-run and grand slam homers. Most of the Bama base-runners come from singles and walks. The recent homers seem to mostly come with the bases empty. Kaylee Tow continues to rack up walks, but that is not what the Tide needs her to be doing. To be honest, I’d rather see her strike out a few more times if it means she swings for the fences more often. She is still stuck on one round-tripper as her batting average continues its downward spiral (.235).
- In hindsight, Murphy’s intentional walk that led to a grand slam was clearly a bad move. In foresight, I still don’t like the move. Kilfoyl is making her way back. I am more in favor of letting a veteran work her way out of trouble rather than facing a big bopper like Clark who feels dissed.
- Murphy is a very good softball manager on almost every level. But I think he is deficient in one area: psychology.
- If I can put a good spin on the weekend, it is that Alabama saved themselves from a sweep and that it is still early in the season. Perhaps the team and Murphy can learn from their shortcomings. But this team needs some toughening up. The early schedule they played, especially that dumb tournament in Louisiana, was lame. It might have done them more good had they been down in that star-studded Clearwater tourney and lost a couple of games to ranked teams instead of beating La Tech 2-0.
- Some unfounded rumors had said that Fouts has a sore hamstring which could explain her poor outing on Saturday. However, she seemed fine on Sunday.
- For some reason, Aubrey Barnhart was designated hitter for Game 2. #BlameTheGut The back-up freshman catcher is 0 for 6 on the season.
- Alabama had many loud fans in BR for the series. Too bad the team could not have performed better.
- Woodard’s solo home run was her only hit, run and RBI of the weekend. She was 1 for 8 with two Ks and a BB.
- Also joining the one hit cub was Prange (1-8, 1 RUN, 1 BB, 2 K), Shipman (1-6, 2 RUNS, 1 RBI, 2 BB), and Tow (1-7, 2 BB, 3 K, ERROR).
- After a big weekend last week, Dallis Goodnight has gone stone cold with an 0fer-the-weekend, 0-7, 0 BB. 1 K.
- Kat Grill and Jenna Lord both got one at bat and both whiffed.
- Abby Doerr was hitless in six at bats.
- From CJMaury, updated for Game 3: Alabama is 41-45 all-time vs. LSU, including an 12-25 record in Baton Rouge. Does LSU still hold a grudge for Murphy leaving them at the altar?
- Johnson - 5 for 8 (.625), 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 RUNS, 1 SB, 2 BB, 0 K, OUTFIELD ASSIST.
That is all.
UPCOMING ALABAMA SCHEDULE
The Crimson Tide has a busy week ahead of them. On the ride back from Baton Rouge is a layover in Hattiesburg, MS. This one-off game is followed by a revenge match with FSU the very next day. Neither of these games will be pushovers. USM (17-8) defeated Florida earlier this month in Gainesville. After Oklahoma, the Seminoles (23-1) might just be the most dangerous team in the nation. I fully expect them to leapfrog the Tide to No. 2. No. 12 Kentucky (19-2) is again a strong team.
- Tuesday, March 15 at Southern Miss 4 p.m. CT
- Wednesday, March 16 vs Florida State 6 p.m. CT - SEC Network
- Friday, March 18 vs Kentucky 6 p.m. CT
- Saturday, March 19 vs Kentucky 2 p.m. CT
- Sunday, March 20 vs Kentucky 1:30 p.m. CT