The Crimson Tide is the first team eliminated from the Women’s College World Series at the hands of the same team and same pitcher that dumped them in last season’s Super Regional.
STANFORD 2, ALABAMA 0
This was the moment ESPN had been waiting for. The triumphant return of the brightest and biggest star of the game. Much was on the line for Alabama, but so too were there chips on the table for the four-letter network. They were waiting for a glorious unforgettable moment that would shoot the sport into the stratosphere and win new fans (and more eyeballs). College softball has little to gain by Stanford winning. There are no casual Cardinal fans like there are those of the Crimson Tide.
It was a big moment as super-senior Montana Fouts stepped into the circle on one and a half legs, hoping it would not be her last. But hope doesn’t float when your offense is dreadful.
Friday night’s loss by Bama was the only time the Crimson Tide had been shut out all season and the timing could not have been worse. It was not as if they did not have opportunities to score. Instead of timely hitting, all the Tide got were whiffs, sad little ground outs, and pathetic pop ups.
In the second inning, Bailey Dowling reached first base on a throwing error. An Emma Broadfoot ground out moved Dowling to second but there she stayed. In the third inning, Ashley Prange singled in what would be the Tide’s only hit of the game. She would reach second on a wild pitch, but again was left stranded. Following that inning, four of the next six Alabama batters would go down on strikes. At this point, you could see how this story would end.
Fouts put forth a gutsy effort but she was not herself. I mean look at what she was contending with.
The first Stanford batter of the game doubled but did not leave that station. In the second frame, the first Cardinal batter singled. Knowing that runs might be at a premium, coach Jessica Allister made a wise choice to bunt the runner over to second base. The next batter, Sydney Steele, doubled in the first run of the game. Sensing the precarious situation, Fouts buckled down and struck out the next two batters.
Fouts was pretty solid from that point forward until two outs in ninth when she gave up a solo home run to the same Sydney Steele - only her third round-tripper of the year. Before this game, the Cardinal third baseman had a sub.200 batting average and only 12 RBI.
For Stanford’s part, they went with true senior pitcher Alana Vawter who pitched in all three games of the 2022 Super-Regional in Tuscaloosa. With so much in-person scouting and game video against Tide batters, you would think the Alabama coaches would have a new plan of approach for this game. Instead, unsubstantiated rumor has it the Tide’s Associate Head Coach was busy working on new cheers. Finding a rhyme for “Esman” is not easy work.
Vawter (21-8) pitched 5.1 innings of one-hit ball against Alabama with no walks and 5 Ks. For some reason, she was lifted after getting the leadoff batter in the sixth out in favor of freshman phenom NiJaree Canady (S, 4) who would strike out three of the last five Bama batters.
- FOUTS: 7.0 INNINGS, 2 RUNS, 5 HITS, 0 BB, 4 K, 108 PITCHES
- FAN SUPPORT - Look who showed up in OKC to cheer on the Tide.
*** Lollipop unicorn rainbow chasers, stop reading here lest ye get your feelings hurt! ***
In full Gump mode or not, most people in the quiet places of their home when nobody is around have to admit that Alabama sports has some of the best fans of college sports. There are casual fans, mega-fans, FOGs (Football Only Gumps), and many other categories.
Speaking for myself and probably some of the commenters here in the RBR community, I do not revel in the failures of the Alabama softball program. I want them to win. The thing is when I see issues that cause failures on the field and can be potential problems in the future, I am going to point them out. I want what is best for this program and want to see improvements towards what will keep them at a high level for years to come. I volunteered to start softball coverage on RBR 12 years ago. I don’t get paid extra to do this coverage. I could be spending my time making lists of “The Toughest Safeties The Tide Will Face in 2023”. Instead, I report on Alabama Softball. That is the kind of fan I am.
Patrick Murphy is a good coach and he does a lot of good things. But he also does some bad things and does very little to fix those issues or evolve with the game. We the fans have been yelping about getting a second pitcher since this time last year when Lexi Kilfoyl peaced out and he went after a risk-filled project from Big Ten country. He keeps letting good players leave, his first base coach is not carrying her weight, and he cannot seem to keep intensity levels up game-in-and-game out. And it goes without mentioning some of his odd Gut® feelings that usually do not work out. But it is the big picture problems that is making dark clouds gather overhead.
It was a remarkable feat for this team to reach the WCWS. However, it sure looked like there was a great deal of shenanigans involved in lining the Tide’s path to OKC with cupcakes for them to reach that goal. That said, there is another category of Alabama fans. They are the cultish “Murphy Mafia” who thinks that the Alabama head man hung the stars and moon and poops out Skittles. That kind of fan is not helping. Their support of the players is great. But continuing to compliment the Emperor’s on his new clothes is not good for the program
- In the bottom of 5th, The Gut® opted to pinch hit for Broadfoot - it was not a bad decision since the Tide’s first baseman had not had a hit since the first Northwestern game. But he called on the bat of Lauren Esman who has the lowest average on the team and had not picked up a bat in almost a month. As expected, she struck out.
- Seven of the last twelve Alabama batters struck out.
- Although the bats were ice cold, the defense was pretty solid including this number.
- Fouts finishes the season with a 25-11 record - her only campaign with double-digit losses. Conversely, her ERA lands at 1.49 - her second lowest since her freshman year when she has Sarah Cornell, Krystal Goodman, and Courtney Gettins helping shoulder the load.
- The Tide ace finishes her career with 1,181 strikeouts, second most for a Tide player. Among Alabama players, she ends up third in shutouts (35), fourth in wins (100), fourth in complete games (89) and fifth in ERA (1.66).
It is going to be a tense and hand-wringing off-season. Team28 will look much different from this year’s rendition. There are no more bonus years or waivers for Fouts, Prange, and Shipman. Bama will undoubtedly have a few transfers out and hopefully some decent transfers in. It is not hyperbole to say the coaching staff faces one of the most difficult off-seasons in program history.
Can Murphy appropriately re-stock the shelves? Who will he hire as his third assistant? (God bless Volunteer Assistant Coach Ryan Iamurri’s sweet heart but she is not experienced enough and not what this team needs.) Will Murphy move on? It feels like he will stick around a little longer. If he doesn’t, we need you fans to let Greg Byrne know that promoting the head cheerleader to head coach would be a disaster.
Beach, summer job, internship, summer school or whatever millions of other 18 to 23 year olds are doing in June.
What kind of fan are you?
This poll is closed
SOG (Softball Only Gump)
Big picture fan with an eye to the future
Other (see Comments)