Alabama, Fouts take game one of Tuscaloosa Super Regional despite late rally


Kentucky sophomore Renee Abernathy swings at a pitch during the game against Marshall on Wednesday, March 11, 2020, at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 16-15. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Barkley Truax

Kentucky (43-15) dropped game one of the Tuscaloosa Super Regional Friday afternoon 4-3 against the No. 3 seeded Alabama Crimson Tide (49-7). 

They won in the most dramatic way possible as Kentucky had the bases loaded with a full count in the seventh. Tatum Spangler was struck out swinging as Montana Fouts recorded her 11th K of the day. 

“It really came down to that dreaded one inning that you always hope doesn’t come on, but overall very pleased [with Kentucky’s performance],” head coach Rachel Lawson said post game. 

Kentucky caught the early edge on against Alabama, but a five-hit fourth inning for the Super Regional hosts sent the Tide rolling and they never looked back. 

Alabama recorded six hits on the afternoon compared to the Wildcats’ four. Kentucky would finish with a .250 (7-28) batting average, which wouldn’t cut it against the stellar defense of the Crimson Tide.

The last time these two squads matched up, Alabama defeated Kentucky 5-1 in the SEC Tournament behind Fouts’ recorded 15 strikeouts, tying a tournament record. Kentucky defeated Alabama 2-1 in their lone regular season series in Lexington, which made the season series tied at two a piece coming into the afternoon. 

A pitching battle began the game as Fouts and Autumn Humes got it done on both sides inside the circle early on. Fouts struck out three Kentucky batters in the first two innings while Humes struck out four in a row, including three K’s in the second. 

Fouts had another sensational start against the Wildcats, finishing with 11 K’s, seven hits (two HR), allowing three runs in a complete game, throwing an astounding 134 total pitches. Humes would record nine strikeouts, six hits and four earned runs on 113 total pitches. 

Spangler singled up the middle in the third to allow Miranda Stoddard to score the opening run. The RBI marked the first score given up by Alabama since the SEC Tournament. They shut out Alabama State and Clemson twice in the Tuscaloosa Regional. 

Her RBI also allowed Kentucky to lead after three innings. Previously, the Crimson Tide had been winning or tied in 109 consecutive innings in a row before the fourth inning Friday. 

A solo shot from Renee Abernathy on a two-strike count went over the fence to extend the Kentucky lead. The home run brought on a ‘Go Big Blue’ chant from the well-traveled Kentucky fans in Rhoads Stadium as the Crimson Tide fans fell silent.

“[Abernathy’s] at bats were so great,” Lawson said. “The fact that when she got in the box, she was so confident, she looked like she knew what she was looking for. Everything about it, she looked like a professional hitter out there.”

The hype was all for not as Humes allowed the bases to be loaded in the bottom of the fourth (before that, she was working on a perfect game), where Alabama’s KB Sides tripled to center, bringing home all three base-runners and taking a 3-2 lead. Maddie Morgan brought her home with a single through the right and all of a sudden, Kentucky found themselves in a hole not many teams come back from.

That didn’t mean the Wildcats wouldn’t try as Abernathy willed her team back to within a single run on her second home run of the day. Kentucky would get two runners on with one out and the Alabama crowd started to become restless. 

Kayla Kowalik, the nation’s leading batting average leader (.495) was intentionally walked to load the bases, the drama building to a climactic finish no matter the outcome. Kentucky and Alabama fans at the stadium, fans at home and everybody in between had their hearts pumping and hands sweating as Alabama won.

“All year we’ve been fighting,” Lawson said. “I love that we’ve been continuing to fight. I love that we don’t back down in the face of adversity.”

Kentucky will attempt to bounce back from this loss and force a game three Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. E.T. in Tuscaloosa on ESPN. If Kentucky loses game two, their season is over and Alabama will advance to the 2021 Softball World Series.