Taylor Clark and record-breaking pitching propel Alabama softball to Super Regional

Brett Greenberg
The Tuscaloosa News

Alabama softball completed a perfect regional round on Sunday after beating Clemson 5-0 in the final game of the Tuscaloosa Regional and will host a Super Regional next weekend at Rhoads Stadium.

The third-seeded Crimson Tide (48-7) broke the program record for the number of strikeouts in a regional in the fourth inning on Sunday (44) with Montana Fouts' fifth strikeout of the game against the Tigers (44-8).

Taylor Clark hit her second home run of the season, and Fouts picked up her 19th appearance with 10-plus strikeouts, finishing with 12 to reach 303 total on the season.

"It was a great weekend between all four teams, Clemson especially. Kudos to them for being here after one full year," UA coach Patrick Murphy said. "For us to hold opponents scoreless shows a lot, and we were able to get production from everyone in the lineup."

The Crimson Tide threw the program's fifth no-hitter in postseason history on Friday behind Lexi Kilfoyl's 15 strikeouts, winning 9-0 in five innings. Fouts struck out 16, and Bailey Hemphill added four RBIs in a 6-0 win on Saturday.

2021 Crimson Tide staff breaks another recordMontana Fouts' fifth strikeout against Clemson breaks record for most strikeouts in regional history

Lexi Kilfoyl impresses in the second appearance since injuryLexi Kilfoyl strikes out 15 to lead No. 3 Alabama softball into showdown against Clemson

Montana Fouts ties career-high for strikeoutsMontana Fouts strikes out 16 and Bailey Hemphill drives in 4 runs to lead Alabama softball past Clemson

Here are three things we learned as the Crimson Tide carry the streak further into the NCAA tournament:

Offensive onslaught 

Clemson first baseman Kyah Keller stretches out to snag a low throw in time to get Alabama hitter Alexis Mack (11) in Rhoads Stadium during the Tuscaloosa Regional Championship between Alabama and Clemson Sunday, May 23, 2021. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

The Crimson Tide started with one run in the first and three runs in the second thanks to Clark's three-run home run.

"That was definitely my hardest-hit ball of the year," Clark said. "I was trying to get something in the gap and trust my preparation, which worked out."

Alexis Mack extended her hitting streak to 12 games and finished the regional hitting .583 (7-for-12) with five runs and four RBIs.

In the last six games, Alabama is hitting .353 (52-for-147) with two doubles, a triple and seven home runs.

In regional play, the Crimson Tide has 28 hits, 10 stolen bases and 10 runs with two outs. Alabama is outscoring opponents 20-0.

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Speed, aggressiveness pays off

The Crimson Tide stole five bases on Friday, three on Saturday and two on Sunday. 

Alabama also forced several throwing errors and defensive miscues with aggressive base running and hustling on infield ground balls. On Sunday, the Crimson Tide beat out seven infield ground balls for hits and scored two runs off throwing errors and miscues.

“The name of the game with a fast kid is that you never want the opposing team to say, 'I got it' because that means the ball is in the air," Murphy said. "My grandmother can catch a pop fly, so when you hit it on the ground, you force commotion and anxiety on the defense.”

Wins, wins, wins 

The victory gives the Crimson Tide its 16th in a row, 14 against ranked opponents and 43 straight regional victories dating to 2007. 

Alabama has not trailed at the end of an inning since facing Florida on April 17, bringing the total to 107 consecutive innings. 

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What's next

Alabama will host a Super Regional and begin play on Thursday or Friday against Kentucky (43-14).

Kentucky won two of the three games played March 27-29 in Lexington. 

The Super Regional is a best-of-three series with the winner advancing to Oklahoma City for the Women's College World Series.