Alabama's Montana Fouts Gets Her Advice From Past Stars
Ever since Alabama senior Montana Fouts began her freshman campaign back in 2019, there were high expectations. Fouts was a top 10 recruit and the MaxPreps National Player of the Year entering her career with the Crimson Tide.
But the Grayson, Ky. native met those expectations when she was named the 2019 SEC Freshman of the Year, a second-team All-American and was a top three finalist for the National Freshman of the Year award.
In 2021, Fouts went from being one of the top pitchers in the SEC to one of the best pitchers in all of college softball. In her stellar junior campaign, Fouts led the country in strikeouts with 349, posted a 1.61 ERA and tallied 22 double-digit strikeout performances.
“She's like the Jennie Finch of college softball right now,” Team Canada pitcher and Olympic bronze medalist Danielle Lawrie-Locke said.
But Fouts’ formidable presence and dominance in the circle last year would not have been possible without the struggles she endured during 2020. In the shortened season, Fouts posted a 3-3 record, less than a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and opponents posted a .247 batting average against her.
One of Fouts’ role models growing up noticed the troubles she was enduring and decided to reach out to her and offer help. That role model was 2012 Alabama national champion pitcher and Women’s College World Series Most Valuable Player Jackie Traina.
“I remember our pitching coach Steph said that (Jackie would) be willing to talk to me, and I just thought that was so awesome of her,” Fouts said. “I was going through a pretty hard time...and she realized that.”
The relationship between Fouts and Traina began prior to 2020, however, back when Fouts was still a recruit. What encouraged Traina to offer a lending hand to Fouts was remembering how genuine she was and how well she represents the University of Alabama.
“She does such a good job of embodying the whole culture of Alabama,” Traina said. “She’s not only a good player, but a good person. A lot of little girls look up to her and I think that's important because you want to be that hero or role model to someone and I think she does a great job of that.”
Their conversations pertained to building confidence and how to deal with pressure when so much is expected out of you. These are issues Traina dealt with in 2013 after leading Alabama to its lone national championship in softball the season before.
“I talked about how we pitchers put so much pressure on ourselves,” Traina said. “It’s important to not have the mindset that you have to do it all yourself.”
Another positive light for Fouts has been Lawrie-Locke. Their friendship began at the St. Pete/Clearwater Elite Invitational in 2020 when Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy introduced Lawrie-Locke to Fouts. After the St. Pete/Clearwater Invitational, Lawrie-Locke contacted Fouts through social media, telling her never to hesitate to reach out if need be.
Fouts eventually took Lawrie-Locke up on her offer, as she was drawn to the way the former two-time USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year played the game and the bulldog mindset she possessed. There was no hesitation from Lawrie-Locke to help Fouts when she asked for it. What drew Lawrie-Locke to Fouts was her willingness to learn and the person she is.
“Not many people ask for help, so when she wanted to talk and wanted to figure out ways to be better, I just truly ate it up,” Lawire-Locke said. “She is by far one of the sweetest young ladies that I've come across. She's raised right and you can just tell that her parents did a really, really great job.”
Like in her conversations with Traina, Fouts and Lawrie-Locke talked about the mental side of the game, and also branched into a discussion about reinventing her skill set. Lawrie-Locke believes Fouts will not only continue to find success in her final two years of college softball, but also beyond Alabama in whatever she wants to do in the sport.
For Fouts, a major goal she has is to become an Olympian and wear Team USA's red, white and blue on the highest stage in softball. Fouts would be 28 years old during the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles if softball is reinstated into the Olympic programme, and 32 if softball is played at the 2032 Olympics in Australia. Age does not daunt Fouts because of the example that Lawrie-Locke set when she earned an Olympic medal this past summer at age 34.
“I want to play in the 2028 Olympics,” Fouts said. “Knowing myself, I probably won't want to stop pitching, and hopefully I'll be able to play in 2032. Danielle (Lawrie-Locke) is in her 30s pitching, so why can't I? It's kind of like, you see it happen, and you can be her.”