How Montana Fouts dominated Florida to lead Alabama softball to the SEC Tournament title

Brett Greenberg
The Tuscaloosa News

No. 3-ranked Alabama softball (45-7) won the SEC Tournament championship Saturday, shutting out No. 4 Florida 4-0 behind a record-breaking performance by Montana Fouts at Rhoads Stadium.

The victory brings the Crimson Tide's winning streak to 13 games, 12 of which have come against ranked opponents.

"The field was in perfect condition, the weather was outstanding, the talent level and game-play was at an all-time high," said Alabama coach Patrick Murphy. "Hopefully you'll see in a couple of weeks when the All-American teams come out ... how good the SEC is."

Fouts, Bailey Hemphill, Taylor Clark and Alexis Mack were named to the all-tournament team for UA, with Fouts taking home SEC Tournament MVP honors.

"Winning this at home means everything because of all the adversity we've faced with injuries and all this season," said Fouts. "The family atmosphere we have created along with the best fan base in the country has allowed us to do anything we set our mind to." 

Fouts struck out 11 Gators and Taylor Clark continued her big week with an RBI single to extend the Crimson Tide's lead in the sixth inning.

The Alabama softball history books were rewritten en route to the program's sixth SEC title. Fifth-year starter Hemphill hit three home runs – two in the quarterfinal round win against Kentucky (5-1) and a two-run, game-sealing shot in the semifinal round against Tennessee (6-5) – giving her the school career record with 61.

Fouts tied Alexis Osorio's SEC Tournament record for most strikeouts in a single game with 15 in the quarterfinal round and also broke the record for most strikeouts in a single SEC Tournament. 

Taylor Clark added her first home run of the season, a two-run long ball in the fourth in the semifinal game.

Quarterfinal round recapMontana Fouts strikes out 15 to lead Alabama softball to SEC Tournament semifinal showdown with Tennessee

Semifinal round recap: Bailey Hemphill's record-breaking night leads Alabama softball to 2021 SEC Tournament title game

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Here are three things we learned:

Can’t figure out Fouts 

Fouts made her third start of the tournament in as many days Saturday and broke the tournament record for strikeoutswith 39.

LSU's Britni Sneed struck out 37 in 2002.

"I see it as doing my job. I'm excited about the award, but it's not about me, it's about the team," said Fouts.

The complete-game shutout in the tournament championship game was the first since Tennessee's Monica Abbott in 2006.

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Aggressive base-running works out

KB Sides used her aggressive base running in the top of the first inning of the final to help give the Crimson Tide a three-run lead.

On a play where UF was charged with a throwing error, two runs came across after Sides put the ball in play. She got herself into a rundown to allow the second run to come home to get UA off to a 3-0 start.

Alabama players lift the championship trophy after defeating Florida 4-0 in the SEC Championship Game in Rhoads Stadium Saturday, May 15, 2021, Tuscaloosa, Alabama. [Pool Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Owning the SEC

With the victory, the Alabama Crimson Tide become the leader in the SEC for total league tournament championships with six. 

Florida and LSU are second with five championships. 

Up next

The NCAA Tournament selection show is this Sunday at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2. Alabama is one of 20 schools that can gain one of the 16 home regional seeds that will be determined.

"This was a great week all around here at Rhoads and I'm excited to see everyone again next weekend," said Murphy. 

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