TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Eight Stanford batters stepped up to the plate during a first inning that felt as if it lasted an eternity for Alabama softball. The Cardinal peppered ace Montana Fouts, jumping out to a three-run lead while burying a slumping Crimson Tide lineup before its first at-bats.
No. 6 Alabama was never able to answer and ultimately saw its NCAA regional winning streak snapped in a 6-0 loss inside Rhoads Stadium on Saturday. The Crimson Tide had won its previous 44 NCAA regional games dating back to 2007.
"We're just trying to play good ball," Stanford head coach Jessica Allister said when asked about snapping Alabama's streak. "I don't care who we're playing. I don't care where we're playing them. We're focused on ourselves. We want to throw good pitches, we want to take care of the ball on defense and we want to put good swings on good pitches.
"I think [Alabama's streak is] a testament to the program they've built, and that's pretty impressive, but we're worried about ourselves."
No. 1 seed Alabama will move to the losers’ bracket where it will face the winner of the elimination game between No. 3 seed Murray State and No. 4 seed Chattanooga later Saturday. Stanford remains in the winners’ bracket and is now one game away from advancing to a super regional. The Cardinal will play Sunday against either Alabama, Murray State or Chattanooga. Stanford will have to lose twice to be eliminated.
Fouts (23-7) took the loss for Alabama, giving up five earned runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out just one batter over 5⅔ innings. The senior left the game in the top of the sixth inning after she was hit in the facemask by a throw from catcher Ally Shipman, who was trying to throw out a runner at second base. While Fouts appeared to look fine while walking off the diamond, her availability for Alabama's game later in the day is unknown.
Fouts threw 97 pitches after throwing 54 while earning the win against Chattanooga during Friday’s tournament opener.
Stanford jumped out to its early advantage thanks to a mixture of crafty hitting and baserunning. After Taylor Gindlesperger led off the game with a triple, Alabama nearly caught her in a rundown between third base and home on a ground out to third baseman Ashley Prange. However, Gindlesperger ran her way out of the pickle to score the run while Alabama was unable to record an out on the play.
A bunt single and a hit by pitch loaded the bases for Stanford before Fouts walked in the second run. The Cardinal added their third run on a sacrifice fly to right before Alabama was able to get out of the jam.
From there, Stanford starting pitcher Alana Vawter (24-11) snuffed out any chance of an Alabama comeback, silencing the Crimson Tide’s bats in a complete-game shutout. Vawter allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out four batters on the afternoon.
"As always, the defense was lights-out," Vawter said. "I think even when we did make a mistake we came back, turned that double play. Things like that, always knowing that the defense has my back is huge. Being able to pound the zone, go right at them and know that the defense is going to have me at the end of the day."
Alabama has scored four or fewer runs in its last 11 games. After recording just four hits in a 3-0 win over Chattanooga on Friday, the Crimson Tide is just 6-for-43 (.139) during the Tuscaloosa Regional.