The stage was set. In front of a national audience, a rowdy Rhoads Stadium was packed with enthusiastic fans all clad in crimson and white. Little girls lined the fences with stars in their eyes at the thoughts of seeing their returning hero mow down anyone who dare step into the batter’s box to face her. ESPN was frothing at the mouth for a 30 for 30 story that would put tears in eyes for years to come. And then the game started.
NORTHWESTERN 3, ALABAMA 1
If you are following the NHL playoffs, you are aware of the story of the Florida Panthers. They were a mediocre team all season and barely slid into the post-season as the second wild card. Fast forward to today and they are heading to the Stanley Cup finals because of a goalie on a hot streak. When a team gets in that situation, you always go with the “hot hand”. You see it in basketball with a shooter and in baseball with a hitter or a pitcher. And you see it in softball. Clearly, Alabama coach Patrick Murphy was not aware of this phenomena. Instead of going with red hot Jaala Torrence in the circle, he chose to please the little girls and TV executives.
So there she was. Montana Fouts with her hair pulled back, wearing her familiar mask and all white Alabama uniform. Except one part of her appearance was glaringly different. A large bulky brace on her left knee was a reminder that this was not the same ace pitcher that fans have seen hurl the ball over the last five years.
Everything went fine in the first inning as the Wildcats went down in order. In the second, Fouts got the first two outs. That was followed by number six hitter Angela Zedak blasting a ball over the center field wall.
In the bottom of the frame, Bama load the bases with two out for the top of the order, but Jenna Johnson let the pitcher off the hook with a fly out.
Northwestern loaded the bases on a pair of singles and a throwing error by Emma Broadfoot on a sac bunt. The third single of the inning sent a Wildcat plateward for a 2-0 advantage. Fouts got out of the inning without any further damage on a nifty pitcher-to-catcher-to-first double play that fired the team and fans up.
Ashley Prange (of course) led off the next inning with a single - her second hit of the day. Sadly, her teammates could not move her off of first base. Fouts and the defense had to quickly return to the field after just nine pitches.
The leadoff Wildcats batter of the fourth inning made it to second base on an uncharacteristic error by Fouts - her first and only boot of the season. About this time, you could read the body language of the Tide. A single would make it 3-0 and Fouts’s day and possibly career came to an end. Torrence entered the game and slammed the door shut with a strike out and a ground out. But there would be no storybook ending. No happily ever after.
In bottom of the inning with a Bama runner on first, Kristen White bunt “singled” on what looked like an error. Jordan Stephens made the most of her pinch-running appearance by basically stealing home on the play due to distracted NW fielders.
Unfortunately for the Tide, Johnson popped up to the catcher to end the threat and the good vibes.
After an Ally Shipman single in the fifth, Bailey Dowling hit a laser shot but it was gloved in the air by the third baseman who threw across the diamond for a double play.
The body language says it all. To worsen things, Shipman may have had her fingers stepped on on the dive back to first. No Alabama player would reach base following that play with Johnson grounding out to end the game.
- TORRENCE: 3.2 INNINGS, 0 RUNS, 2 SINGLES, 1 BB, 3 K, 61 PITCHES
- PRANGE: 2-3, 1B, 2B
- The line on Fouts in her possible Rhoads swan song is five hits and three runs allowed. She walked one and struck out three. The loss gives her double digits in defeats (23-10) for the first time in her Bama career.
- Jenna Johnson was again death at the leadoff spot. She was 0-4 and left four runners on base. She has not gotten a hit since the Tennessee game in the SEC Tournament. It may be time to put Kenleigh Cahalan back in the top spot.
- Larissa Preuitt’s batting average has dropped from .288 to .271 since being named to the All-SEC second team.
- It must have been Retro Night at Rhoads because The Gut® called for a lot of bunt attempts.
- Saturday, May 27 Alabama vs Northwestern 8 p.m. CT Tuscaloosa - ESPN
- Sunday, May 28 Alabama vs Northwestern (if necessary) TBA Tuscaloosa - TBA
Mike Couzens and Kayla Braud again on the call.
Will the ‘Cats go with their star pitcher Danielle Williams (23-1) again or turn to second pitcher Lauren Boyd (8-4, 2.26)?
This three game set isn’t over yet. Torrence most likely gets the start in Game 2 and she has found another level as of late. This series lies in the hands of Murphy and whether he listens to his head or his Gut®. He will need to figure out who is batting leadoff and how much he is going to use Fouts from here on out. Logic dictates that it is Torrence’s team and Fouts will be regulated to the bullpen. But you never know when The Gut® is lurking in the shadows.
Can Bama come back and win this thing?
This poll is closed
Yes, Torrence will lead the way.
Maybe, if Murphy can get his team fired up.
No, the hitting is abysmal. This is like the Stanford Super all over again.