TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama softball was lights-out in the circle to open its Super Regional series against Texas Thursday night, shutting out the Longhorns, 3-0.
The shutout is Alabama’s (56-7) first in Super Regional play since blanking Oklahoma in game two of the 2015 series. The Crimson Tide struck first against Texas (45-16) with a two-run home run from senior Merris Schroder in the third inning with an added insurance run from freshman Skylar Wallace on a fielding error in the fourth. The Alabama defense and freshman Montana Fouts (18-4) did the rest, with the rookie right-hander allowing just three hits and no walks in the complete-game shutout.
“Montana had a bounce-back game tonight with no walks and five k’s against a very good team,” UA head coach Patrick Murphy said. “It was just much better performance. Steph [VanBrakle Prothro] told the team postgame that [Fouts] basically hit every spot except for the ball that was hit right back at her, and after that she just finished the deal. It was just a good opening Super Regional win.”
Junior Bailey Hemphill’s standup double in the fourth inning stretched her current reached-base streak to 35 games, tied for the second-longest in program history. A fifth-inning single from junior Elissa Brown improved her current hitting streak to four games, having earned a hit in every game of the NCAA Tournament so far. Sophomore Kaylee Tow drew a walk to improve her season total to 64, now just two shy of Cassie Reilly-Boccia’s single-season record from 2010.
After two perfect innings for both teams, Texas got the first baserunner of the day in the top of the third on a one-out fielding error. A sacrifice bunt moved her into scoring position, now with two outs, before Fouts got out of the inning with a swinging strikeout. Sophomore Maddie Morgan was hit by a pitch to lead off the Tide half of the third and, with freshman pinch-runner Kloyee Anderson in at first base, an errant throw on a pickoff attempt moved her into scoring position. A sacrifice bunt pushed her up 60 feet and Schroder made the first hit of the day a big one, blasting a two-run home run to right field to put Alabama ahead, 2-0.
The Longhorns got their first hit of the day in the top of the fourth, a leadoff bunt single. Another single two batters later would put two on with one out but a strikeout and flyout would end the half-inning. Hemphill started the bottom of the fourth with a standup double and, on a wild pitch, junior pinch-runner Taylor Clark moved up to third base. With one out and runners at the corners, a throw home on a groundout was in time for out number two but the batter was safe on the fielder’s choice, putting two on base. A double steal coupled with an errant throw into left field brought a run home to make it 3-0 before a groundout ended the inning.
It remained a three-run game heading into the seventh, but Fouts and the Tide defense retired the Longhorns in order to close the door on the shutout victory.
Game two of the Super Regional series is set for an 8 p.m. CT first pitch on ESPN Friday, May 24 at Rhoads Stadium.