Alabama Crimson Tide softball's 10 biggest moments from the 2021 season

Brett Greenberg
The Tuscaloosa News

No. 3 Alabama softball went into Friday night riding a 19-game winning streak as it played in the Women's College World Series against No. 2 seed UCLA.

The game was scheduled for 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2, with the winner advancing to the semifinals. 

UA Coach Patrick Murphy has said it over and over: "This season was the weirdest, most unprecedented year I have ever had, and this team is the grittiest, most resilient bunch I've coached in my 25 years."

The Crimson Tide has faced injuries, the challenges of COVID-19 and scheduling. Their first tournament of the season was canceled due to inclement weather in Austin, Texas, forcing Murphy to scramble and find new opponents. The season's home run and RBI leader at the time, freshman Bailey Dowling, tore her ACL/MCL in the Tennessee series, Two weeks later, graduate student Claire Jenkins tore her MCL in the Florida series. 

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Murphy was forced to go deep into his bench and kept the team on a championship trajectory.  

Here's a look at the 10 biggest moments in the 2021 season:

Combined perfect game in opener

Montana Fouts and Sarah Cornell combined for a perfect game with 11 combined strikeouts against Alabama State to kick off the 2021 season with a 10-0 run-rule win. It was a sign of what was to come for a dominant pitching staff.

Bailey Hemphill goes yard 2 times, back in win column

The program's all-time home run leader, Bailey Hemphill, hit her third and fourth home run of the season and added five RBIs powering Alabama over rival Auburn 6-0 in the first SEC game of 2021.

Savannah Woodard proves coach right

The sophomore infielder was put into the starting lineup after injuries in the Florida series. A week later she went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and an inside-the-park home run against then-ranked Louisiana. Woodard went into Friday night's WCWS game second in RBIs during the win streak with 15.

Montana Fouts locks in against the Gators

Fouts powered the Crimson Tide to a win against Florida to avoid a sweep and begin a winning streak that carried into the WCWS. Fouts limited the Gators to just two runs despite a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the third inning.

Alabama added two runs in the bottom half of the inning and it was all UA needed.

Hemphill rewrites the history books

Hemphill's 10th home run of the season gave her sole possession of all-time home run leader in program history. It also regained the lead for the Crimson Tide in the semifinal game of the SEC Tournament against Tennessee.

Speed and aggressiveness on the base paths

In the championship game of the SEC Tournament, Alabama ran wild. On a play where UF was charged with a throwing error, two runs came across after KB Sides put a 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 in the first inning. 

Montana Fouts breaks tournament strikeout record

In three starts in the SEC tournament, Fouts struck out a combined 39 batters to surpass the 20-year-old tournament record held by LSU's Britni Sneed.

Fouts has 21 games with 10-plus strikeouts. 

Lexi Kilfoyl dominant in return from injury

Lexi Kilfoyl struck out 15 batters, 14 to begin the game, in the Tuscaloosa Regional opener against Alabama State. Before a brief outing in the SEC Tournament, she had not pitched for more than a month. 

Taylor Clark's postseason magic

Taylor Clark, who replaced Jenkins in the lineup after her season-ending injury, hit her first home run of the season against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament semifinal, a two-run shot.

She added to her total a week later with a three-run home run against Clemson to help Alabama advance to the super regional round.

Montana Fouts shuts the door on Kentucky

Alabama's Montana Fouts (14) pitches during a 5-1 win against Arizona on Thursday in Women's College World Series.

It was a 3-2 count with two outs and bases loaded after the decision to walk the Wildcats' top batter, Kayla Kowalik, in the bottom of the seventh inning of the Tuscaloosa Super Regional. Alabama held a 4-3 lead.

Fouts threw a 73 mph riseball to catch the top half of the zone for the final out to give UA a victory in the first game in the best-of-three series. UA won again the next day to punch its ticket to Oklahoma City.