By Justin Smith
Special to The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama softball opened the Easton Crimson Classic with two close wins over Michigan State and Southern Miss at Rhoads Stadium on Friday.

Alabama remains undefeated at 18-0 with the latest wins.

The Crimson Tide took down the Spartans, 2-1, in their first game of the classic. Freshman pitcher Montana Fouts started for the Tide and went the distance. She pitched 11 strikeouts, which is one off her career high.

Both of Alabama’s runs came in the bottom of the second inning. Kaylee Tow’s double RBI resulted in runs scored by Elissa Brown and Merris Schroder. Both teams remained scoreless for the rest of the game.

With the score tied at the top of the 7th, Fouts pitched two strikeouts, which put Alabama in position to close out Michigan State. Alabama secured the win on a groundout. Fouts said her teammates’ confidence in her kept her focus in the tough game.

“It is all about the girls behind me,” Fouts said “When there was a runner on second in the seventh, Maddie (Morgan) turned around, and she said to dig deep. This is for them. Every pitch is for them.”

In the nightcap, the Tide defeated Southern Miss, 3-2.

Junior Krystal Goodman started at pitcher for the Tide and played for five innings. She pitched two strikeouts. Sarah Cornell relieved Goodman in the sixth inning and added two strikeouts of her own.

Both teams scored in the first inning to tie the score, 1-1. After three scoreless innings by both teams, Alabama picked up some momentum in the bottom of the fifth on a Kaylee Tow RBI. Bailey Hemphill kept it going with an RBI, scoring Brown.

In the top of the sixth inning, the Golden Eagles scored on an RBI by Sarah Van Schaik, but the Tide took care of business the rest of the way for the win.

Tow led the Tide at-bat in both games by hitting two RBIs in each. She credits a relaxing attitude for her success at bat Friday.

“I was just trying to have fun.” Tow said. “The past couple of games, I have been pressing to try to perform at a certain level. Today, I was just like, ‘you know what Kaylee? You are playing for Alabama and doing what most people would want to do. Don’t waste any at-bats pressuring yourself because you are just going to regret it.’ ”

Alabama continues play at home in the Easton Crimson Classic beginning with a 1:30 p.m. game on Saturday against St. Francis.