BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
Defending SEC softball champion Arkansas has won nine straight league road series, but has work to do in Tuscaloosa the next two days to continue that streak.
Jenna Johnson went 3 for 3 with an RBI single and Alabama’s Montana Fouts out-dueled fellow all-America pitcher Chenise Delce Saturday as the No. 13 Crimson Tide beat the No. 12 Razorbacks 2-0.
It was the first of a three-game series between Alabama (22-6, 1-0) and Arkansas (20-8, 1-3), losers of three in a row after a lid-lifting win over Texas A&M.
“We knew this game had the potential to be a pitcher’s duel and unfortunately we did not find a way to push through,” Arkansas head coach Courtney Deifel said. “ I though we battled well. Montana Fouts is one of the best in the country, and she got us today.
“We’ll log it away and use it to be better tomorrow. I thought Hannah Gammill was outstanding on defense today.”
Gammill and Regan Johnson hadw the two Arkansas hits.
“Obviously today was not the outcome we wanted, but I thought we played great defensively,” Gammill said. “Offensively, we need to improve on stringing hits together. Making in-game adjustments is important, especially against elite pitchers. We gave it all we had, but came up short. We will learn from today.”
Fouts (11-3) fanned eight and allowed just two hits while issuing no free passes and going the distance in the seven-inning contest.
It was Fouts’ 28th career shutout.
Delce (9-4) allowed one earned run on four hits, fanned two and walked two in five innings before Robyn Herron walked one, whiffed one and allowed a hit while handling the bottom of the sixth
Alabama scored an unearned run on a passed ball in the second and then Johnson delivered an RBI single in the fourth.
The two teams will meet Sunday at 5 p.m. and Monday at 6 p.m. with both games being televised by the SEC Network.
Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy was obviously pleased with the win and the atmosphere at Rhoads Stadium.
“This was a big win for us, especially with eight newcomers on the team that have never been in this kind of atmosphere at home,” Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said. “ You give [Montana] Fouts the ball and she does what she does, and we were able to scratch a couple of runs across and our defense played great.
“The formula for SEC play is you have to get a good start from your pitching, you have to play great defense and then you hope for a key hit. [Bailey] Dowling and Jenna Johnson got the key hits for us today and Montana and the defense did the rest.
Alabama improved to 63-12 all-time vs. Arkansas with the win, including a 33-2 mark in Tuscaloosa.
Photo by John D. James