Courtesy of UA Athletics
No. 3 Alabama (47-7) defeated the Clemson Tigers 6-0 on Saturday, May 22, with a dominant performance from junior Montana Fouts (23-3; 1.49 ERA) and a pair of multi-run innings.
The Crimson Tide’s win secured the team a spot in Sunday’s NCAA Tournament regional final. Alabama needs one win to advance to next weekend’s super regional round.
“I think this was a very high caliber and well-played softball game,” Head Coach Patrick Murphy said.
Fouts carried her MVP performance from the SEC Tournament into Saturday’s regional semifinal. The Kentucky native struck out the ACC regular season champions 16 times, matching her career high from the March 3rd game against Mississippi State.
Fouts, the 2021 SEC Co-Pitcher of the Year, struck out the side three times and pitched multiple strikeouts in six of the seven innings. She struck out seven of Clemson’s nine hitters. Saturday’s game marked Fouts’ 18th game with double-digit strikeouts.
Graduate student Alexis Mack said Fouts’ strikeout performance was “no surprise.”
“She’s such a competitor,” Mack said. “And as a defense, we really feed off of her energy and we get fired up behind her.”
Two Clemson batters reached scoring position under Fouts, and both failed to reach third base. Fouts gave up four hits in the game and didn’t surrender a walk.
Murphy said the mantra for the Alabama offense is “score first.” Graduate student Bailey Hemphill accomplished this for her team when she blooped a two-run single to right field in the bottom of the third frame. Alabama has now scored first in three consecutive games.
“Obviously, we’d love to score in the first inning,” Murphy said. “But we also say we must score first no matter what.”
Mack matched Hemphill’s two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning, improving Alabama’s lead to 4-0 at the time. This was Mack’s second hit with a runner in scoring position. The Ohio native said she’s successful with runners in scoring position because she’s able to stick to her game plan.
“I don’t make any moments too big, and I just stay within myself,” Mack said. “No moment is too big for me.”
Hemphill followed Mack’s single with another, which plated the Crimson Tide’s final two runs of the game.
Mack and Hemphill combined for a 4-for-6 performance at the plate. They were the only Alabama batters to record a multi-hit game. All four of their hits happened with runners in scoring position.
The rest of the Alabama offense tallied four additional hits. The offense finished with eight hits and a .308 batting average.
All of Alabama’s offensive production came against Valerie Cagle (27-6; 1.12 ERA), Clemson’s freshman ace pitcher. The six runs given up by Cagle marked the second highest number of runs she’s given up all season.
Alabama captured its regional semifinal win in front of a sold-out crowd. After the game, Mack said the atmosphere inside Rhoads Stadium was something she had “never experienced.”
“Our fans are just so awesome, and we feed off their energy,” Mack said. “I feel bad for the other teams.”
The Crimson Tide will play in the Tuscaloosa Regional final on May 23 at 1 p.m. CT. Its opponent and broadcast location are TBA.