WCWS Day 2 Features Fouts' Perfect Game, JMU's Continued Run
Game Five: JMU 2, Oklahoma State 1
Odicci Alexander has explained all postseason that she was going to give everything she had to win. Her actions on Friday couldn’t have spoken any louder to that.
Alexander thought that Oklahoma State had something up its sleeve with runners on second and third in the seventh inning. When Chelsea Alexander dropped down the expected squeeze bunt, Odicci Alexander did the unexpected. After fielding the ball, the James Madison pitcher didn’t flip it to her catcher Lauren Bernett. Instead, Alexander extended her arm and dove to tag out Scotland David before she reached the plate.
Kiley Naomi popped up the final out and the Dukes placed themselves into the driver’s seat for Sunday after a 2-1 win.
“That's probably the best play I've ever seen in my career by a pitcher in that situation with that much pressure,” James Madison coach Loren LaPorte said.
Alexander’s stuff in the circle wasn’t as spectacular as it had been at times, but her defense had her back throughout the game. America’s favorite player Lynsey Meeks had a diving stop in the third inning and the James Madison sparkplug continued to carry the momentum for her team.
“They were very spectacular,” Alexander said. “I really didn't have my best stuff today, but they kept me in the game, and I couldn't be more proud of each and every one of them making those big plays and coming up in those big moments.”
After the diving play from Meeks, Kate Gordon blasted a home run off of Oklahoma State’s Carrie Eberle to lead off the bottom of the third inning. The homer put the Dukes up 2-0 at the time and ensured the victory after the Cowgirls scored a run in fifth.
Don’t let the idea of a Cinderella Story fool you, however. James Madison has been a great softball program for a while now with All-American players in Alexander and Gordon just like every other team in Oklahoma City. Most might’ve believed that James Madison's magic might run out at the Women’s College World Series, but the Dukes have believed in themselves since the start of the season.
“I think we're at the point where why not? Why not us? We do everything. We work our butts off, like they said in the off-season, just like every team does here,” LaPorte said. “I mean, let's be honest, every team works hard, and so do we. And I think the biggest thing is just believing and it's such a cool thing to see across the country right now...I think we're at the point where this is something really special that's happening and our team believes that we can get it done.”
Game Six: Alabama 6, UCLA 0
One could say that Montana Fouts had a perfect 21st birthday. The Alabama ace dished out the fifth perfect game in Women’s College World Series history against UCLA, the defending national champions, late Friday night.
Once again, Fouts mowed down hitters with her devastating rise ball, striking out 14 Bruin batters. In eight games since the start of the SEC Tournament, Fouts is averaging 13.5 strikeouts per game.
“Hell of a birthday present to herself,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said with a smile. “Just to watch greatness is pretty cool...I didn’t think she’d get better from yesterday, but she did. And these are good teams, this is the king of the Pac-12. To throw a perfect game against legendary UCLA is something else.”
It was clear early on that Rachel Garcia’s didn’t have her typical stuff on the other side. Alabama, like it has for the majority of its 20-game winning streak, took advantage and scored quickly. The formula of Alexis Mack’s speed, Bailey Hemphill’s power and a clutch hit from someone else in the lineup, Jenna Johnson in this case, provided two runs of support before Fouts even had to step into the circle.
In the fifth inning, Kaylee Tow delivered the knockout blow. Garcia had given Hemphill nothing to hit the previous at-bat, proceeding to walk her like many others had done all season. Tow accomplished her duty as protection for Alabama’s home run record holder, hitting her third bomb after a Hemphill walk during the win streak.
“I just see it as an opportunity,” said Tow on hitting behind Hemphill. “I know that I’m going to get a pitch and it’s probably going to be in an RBI situation. I’m grateful to be in that role, thankful that Murphy has put me in that role...I don’t put too much pressure on myself...it’s not making the moment bigger than it is and just having Bailey’s back.”
Meanwhile, UCLA looked all out of sorts on Friday. The Bruins only had one error in the box score, but the real defensive miscues were all mental or based on a lack of communication. The climb through the losers’ bracket, which includes a possible matchup with Oklahoma on Saturday, will be even harder due to Megan Faraimo’s absence.
“After every game from February, even at practice, we have a consistent routine. We always come in and we always, I always have them own what they could be better at. And they do an excellent job. We owned it,” UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said. “We didn't play defense. We weren't aggressive. We didn't work ahead in the count. We didn't have each other's backs. So I didn't even have to say it. It is part of our routine to own it. We understand what we did and we have got to learn from it. But I always say very simply, it's not what happens, it's what you do next that is your defining moment.”