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