For Alabama softball, streaks may die, but Patrick Murphy's program doesn't | Goodbread

Chase Goodbread
The Tuscaloosa News

“Zombie," by The Cranberries, blared through the Rhoads Stadium audio system with one out in the fourth inning of Alabama softball's 4-0 win over Stanford Sunday, while the umpire crew reviewed a close play on a fielder’s choice at second base. An appropriate choice for a home team, and a starting pitcher in Montana Fouts, that refused to die until the bitter end of a two-game marathon that ultimately qualified Stanford for next week’s NCAA super regionals.

Having already lost to Stanford on Saturday, the Crimson Tide (44-13) had to knock off the Cardinal (39-20) twice on Sunday to advance. Fouts embodied the task, pitching a shutout in a 10 a.m. start to force another game, then took yet another shutout into the sixth inning of the final before Stanford broke through late for a 6-0 win. 

A two-run double to by Stanford’s Aly Kaneshiro that nipped the tip of centerfielder Dallis Goodnight’s glove was the kill shot that essentially ended Alabama’s season, and with it, Fouts’ remarkable run of 12 consecutive shutout innings on Sunday. Also snapped: a historic streak for coach Patrick Murphy’s program of 16 consecutive trips to the super regionals, the only school in the country to qualify every year since the format’s inception, until Sunday. Stanford’s Saturday win over Alabama snapped a 44-game win streak for the Crimson Tide in regional play, another NCAA record. 

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Notable streaks in sports, by definition, impress. 

But another defining characteristic is that they all come to an end. Reconciling that inevitability is never easy in defeat, especially for a coach who had made such a routine of advancing past this postseason round. Murphy surmised the moment with acknowledgement that it was somewhat surreal.

“It’s really weird. I’m going to go watch Alabama baseball, cheer them on,” Murphy said. “It’s good for fire and motivation for sure. But it is a weird feeling.” 

It could be argued from a stamina standpoint that Fouts, despite finally allowing Stanford to score, could have kept right on firing beyond her 245 pitches on the day. Stanford’s radar clocked her velocity at 72 mph in her 14th and final inning. 

Dead on the scoreboard, maybe. But a dead arm? Not nearly. 

“Monica Abbott to me is the bionic woman of women’s softball. She’s 36 years old and still throwing 70 professionally in Japan,” Murphy said. “Montana reminds me a lot of her. I don’t know how they do it.” 

There were signals, in the form of an Alabama offense that entered the regional having struggled for weeks, that the team’s postseason streak was in jeopardy. Stanford ultimately exposed that in holding UA scoreless in 13 of its 14 innings on Sunday. That, and certainly not pitching, is why the 2022 Alabama team won’t be getting up. 

But with the vast majority of the roster returning for 2023, Murphy's program is anything but dead.

Reach Chase Goodbread Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread.