Kentucky knows all about Montana Fouts, Alabama softball's ace in the circle

Jon Hale
Louisville Courier Journal

LEXINGTON – If the Kentucky softball team is to reach the second Women’s College World Series in program history, it will need to knock off a familiar name.

The No. 14 seed Wildcats open a three-game Super Regional series at No. 3 seed Alabama on Friday. Alabama is expected to lean heavily on junior ace pitcher Montana Fouts, the former Grayson East Carter High School star.

“The thing about her that makes her so special is she is an incredibly hard worker and she’s very humble,” UK coach Rachel Lawson said of Fouts. “She’s just an outstanding player. She’s great for the sport of softball, and she’s been outstanding for Alabama.”

Fouts was named SEC Co-Pitcher of the Year and is a finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year.

The Grayson, Kentucky, native has pitched in 32 of Alabama’s 55 games this season, starting 28 of them. In 189⅔ innings, Fouts has compiled a 24-3 record with a 1.44 ERA. She ranks fourth nationally in strikeouts (303) and ninth in shutouts (nine).

In 34⅔ postseason innings at the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament regional, Fouts has surrendered just three earned runs with 67 strikeouts and just five walks.

“She rises to the occasion, it seems like, all the time,” Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said after Fouts limited Kentucky to just one unearned run in an SEC Tournament win. “… She just makes the pitches when she needs to.”

Fouts’ dominance is likely no surprise to anyone who saw her pitch at East Carter.

She first played varsity softball as a sixth-grader and ended her career as the Kentucky high school record holder for career wins (148), career strikeouts (1,964), career perfect games (17), consecutive wins (32), single-season shutouts (31), single-season ERA (0.09) and single-season no-hitters (14).

As a senior, Fouts was named the 2018 USA TODAY All-USA High School Player of the Year and MaxPreps National Softball Player of the Year. She was a four-time All-USA Today first-team All-American and three-time Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year.

“We knew she would be successful with as hard as she works,” East Carter coach Derek Calhoun said. “I think it has progressed extremely above that. We figured she would end up being one of the better pitchers to go through, but at the rate that she’s going over the years that she’s been there, she just keeps getting better and better. I can’t wait to see where she ends up.”

Super regional schedule:How to watch Kentucky softball vs. Alabama in NCAA Tournament

Staying home to play for Kentucky was an option for Fouts, but she committed to Alabama as a freshman. She was the youngest player to ever receive a scholarship offer from the powerhouse program with 12 World Series appearances and one national championship.

“When she went to Alabama, she really truly loved the campus and Coach Murphy, of course,” Calhoun said. “I think she just kind of made here mind up early that’s where she wanted to be.”

For all of Fouts’ success, she is actually just 2-3 against Kentucky in her college career.

She lost both starts against the Wildcats as a freshman and struggled during a series in Lexington in March. In the first game of that season, Fouts was credited with a win but surrendered a season-high six runs in six innings. In Game 3, she surrendered just two runs in 5⅔ innings but was tagged for the loss after striking out just two batters, her lowest total in a start this season.

Fouts reversed those struggles in the SEC Tournament, striking out 15 Kentucky batters while walking just one and surrendering five hits in a complete-game win.

“Alabama is an incredibly solid team, but Montana Fouts is definitely one of the players in college softball that has made this year so special across the country,” Lawson said.

Kentucky vs. Alabama super regional schedule

  • Game 1: Friday, 1 p.m. (ESPN2)
  • Game 2: Saturday, 2 p.m. (ESPN)
  • Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, 4 p.m. (ESPNU)

Email Jon Hale at jahale@courier-journal.com; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ