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Alabama Softball Bounced from SEC Tournament by Missouri

The Crimson Tide was eliminated in the first round for the first time since 1999.

After winning last year’s SEC Tournament, Alabama’s title defense was short-lived this season. The No. 2 seed Crimson Tide suffered a 3-0 loss to No. 7 seed Missouri on Thursday to end its run in the single-elimination tournament. This year marks the first time since 1999 that Alabama has lost its opening game of the SEC Tournament.

Missouri (35-19) will advance to the semifinals where it will face No. 3 seed Tennessee (39-15) on Friday. Alabama (41-11) will now wait until Sunday to find out its NCAA Tournament fate.

A slumping Crimson Tide lineup couldn’t figure out Missouri starting pitcher Laurin Krings (14-8). Meanwhile, a solid start from Alabama’s Montana Fouts (22-6) was undone in the sixth inning as a pair of hits and two Tide errors allowed the Tigers to plate three runs.

With the game scoreless, Missouri led off the top of the sixth with a double from Jenna Laird. From there, Alabama intentionally walked Kimberly Wert before an error from Fouts loaded the bases with no outs.

Kendyll Bailley lifted a sacrifice fly to center to give Missouri its first run. Two batters, later Kara Daly doubled the Tigers’ advantage with a two-out single up the middle. Missouri added its third run on Alabama’s second error of the inning as freshman Kali Heivilin dropped a routine pop-up at second base.

Krings kept Alabama's bats at bay all afternoon, giving up five hits while striking out three batters in a complete-game shutout. Alabama has scored four or fewer runs in each of its last nine games, dating back to a 6-1 victory over North Alabama on April 19.

“We had ball four like three times, and I think we swung at it and either struck out or popped up,” Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy said after the game. “Then we had a lot of first-pitch pop-ups that just didn’t go anywhere. So obviously her ball was moving, and it was just an old-fashioned pitchers’ dual for five innings.”

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Fouts gave up three runs, one earned, on five hits while striking out five batters and issuing a walk over seven innings. It was her fourth appearance against Missouri in the span of fewer than seven days. 

Fouts was named SEC Pitcher of the Week after holding the Tigers to four runs, three earned, on 12 hits over 17⅔ innings during Alabama's series win against Missouri over the weekend. The senior looked as though she would continue that dominance until things went south in the top of the sixth inning. 

"We had to score for her. We had to score runs," Murphy said. "She was fine. It was one earned run. She only walked one, so I thought she did great."

Missouri would have had five runs if not for a pair of nice throws from shortstop Bailey Dowling and first baseman Kaylee Tow. 

The Tigers nearly scored in the top of the first inning as they put runners on second and third with one out. However, Dowling fielded a hard-hit ground ball at short and fired it home to gun down Missouri’s Jenna Laird for the second out of the inning. Tow saved a run in a similar fashion during the sixth inning, fielding a ground ball at first before throwing it to catcher Ally Shipman, who barely got a glove on Missouri's Maddie Snider at the plate.

"I thought both of them were great throws, Tow and [Dowling]," Murphy said. "If it's a high throw or if it's on the opposite side, both runners are safe."

Thursday's game was originally slated to begin at 1:30 p.m. CT but was pushed back more than two hours after Tennessee and Mississippi State went 13 innings in an eventual 1-0 win for the Lady Volunteers. Following Alabama's loss, Murphy said the delay did not affect his team's performance. 

"They're used to this," Murphy said. "They play summer ball until they're eight to 18, and they sit at a field for 14 hours on a Saturday and a Sunday. They're used to this." 

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Ally Shipman
Jenna Johnson
Bailey Dowling
Ashley Prange