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Fouts, Schroder Help Alabama Secure Game 1 Win

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(Photo Courtesy of Alabama Athletics)

TUSCALOOSA, Al.-- After struggling a bit with what she called "technical things" last week in the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional, it was still hardly surprising that standout freshman Alabama pitcher Montana Fouts began the Super Regionals Thursday in the circle for Patrick Murphy's Crimson Tide.

Fouts, the highly-touted native of Grayson, Ky., was no doubt still the least of Murphy's concerns after compiling a 17-4 record in 2019 with a sparkling earned run average of 1.20.

And in a spicy matchup with highly regarded Texas starter Miranda Elish, it was Fouts who shined the brightest in the circle with a masterful complete game performance as Alabama topped the Longhorns 3-0 to take a 1-0 series lead in its quest to return to the Women's College World Series.

Fouts was basically in control from the start, allowing no runs on only three hits, no walks and striking out five. Texas left four on base against her.

"Well, I think it was a really different Montana Fouts from the one you guys saw on Sunday (against Arizona State in the regional round), and I knew that was going to happen," said Murphy. "No walks and five K's against a good, good team. Just a much better performance. She basically hit every spot except for the one where the girl ripped it right back at her. And then after that she finished the deal. Just a good opening Super Regional win."

"I felt pretty confident out there and hit my spots," said Fouts. "In this game I was just a lot more focused on each batter and each pitch instead of looking at the big picture."

After the first two innings were scoreless, the host Crimson Tide finally put up the first runs of the game in the bottom of the third.

Maddie Morgan was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and Kloyee Anderson was called on to run for her. She advanced to second on a Longhorn error. She then went to third on a sacrifice bunt by Claire Jenkins.

Alabama senior left fielder Merris Schroder then took an Elish pitch and deposited it over the right field wall, giving the Crimson Tide the 2-0 advantage before a loud home crowd at Rhoads Stadium.

"Anytime we can get the offense going, no matter who does it, it is awesome," said Schroder. "It's been me the last two games, but I know it's going to be somebody else if I can't do it the next game."

Host Alabama added to its lead in the bottom of the fourth.

Bailey Hemphill led off with a double to center, with Taylor Clark called on to run for her.

Clark went to third on a wild pitch, but was thrown out at home on a fielder's choice play. Later in the inning, Skylar Wallace, who had walked, came across to score on the second error of the game for the visiting Longhorns.

This was more than enough for Fouts, and she finished the game in style in the top of the seventh, retiring the Longhorns in order to seal the opening victory for the Crimson Tide.

"It was a close ballgame and could have gone either way," said Texas head coach Mike White. "Obviously Alabama took advantage of their opportunities and we didn't. Both were really good pitchers out there and both had some good defensive plays. Hopefully we can bounce back (Friday). It was a good game. (Fouts) throws hard and she was a little wild at times, but we didn't capitalize on that, and when (Elish) made one or two mistakes, Alabama capitalized on that. Every pitcher makes mistakes but (Fouts) stepped up when she had to."

Elish (18-10) took the tough loss for the Longhorns, allowing two earned runs on three hits, while walking one and striking out one. She also hit a batter. White indicated Elish would get the start again Friday in Game 2 for the Longhorns.

The shutout posted by Fouts was the first by Alabama in Super Regional play since 2015.

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