With one decision the outlook of the University of Alabama softball team’s season went from very good to unbelievably good.

In the summer Montana Fouts was one of eight pitchers invited to the US Olympic team trials.

She wasn’t selected to the team.

Had Fouts been picked Alabama would not have her available for the season and she would have redshirted.

Fouts, the SEC Freshman of the year and a second-team All-American, is back for her sophomore campaign with the Crimson Tide, which includes returning pitchers Sarah Cornell and Krystal Goodman and newcomer Lexi Kilfoyl.

Fouts comes into the 2020 season a year older and with a different mindset.

“It just makes me more excited,” she said. “This time last year I didn’t really know what was coming so I’m excited because I know how much I love it and love being out there. I was able to learn game by game last season and will take that into this season.”

It was disappointing Fouts did not make the Olympic team but the experience was not wasted. She got to learn from some of the best pitchers in the game at the Olympic Trials, including Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman.

“I would ask a lot of questions,” Fouts said. “They have been around this sport way longer than I have so I was just trying to be like a sponge with them. So taking just a little stuff is going to help a lot.”

Osterman and Abbott are big names in the softball world, but so is Fouts. She took college softball by storm in 2019 by winning 21 games, 18 complete, with 182.2 innings pitched with 193 strikeouts and a 1.39 ERA.

She’s become quite popular around campus and has fans clamoring for photos and autographs of the Crimson Tide star.

“She’s so good with people, I don’t think it gets to her that much,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said. “She welcomes any fan really. She is good with an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old. That’s hard to do at her age.”

Having four pitchers in the rotation is a blessing for Murphy and the Crimson Tide this season. Past Alabama teams relied on one ace pitcher for the bulk of the work and a solid No. 2 and a reliable mid-week pitcher. That meant a lot of innings for the ace.

“I think this will be a really good year for (Fouts) because she has two senior pitchers (Cornell and Goodman) and a kid behind her (Kilfoyl) that can help her out.

“If she had to shoulder the load, like a two-person pitching staff, then it would be a big deal.”

Reach Edwin Stanton at 205-722-0226, edwin.stanton@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @edwinstantonu2