TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Bottom of the seventh, bases loaded, two outs, 3-2 count with a one run lead in the game.
These are the type of moments postseason softball are built upon, and it was the exact scenario Alabama was facing against Kentucky on Friday afternoon.
"If there was a worst case scenario, that was it," Alabama coach Patrick Murphy said.
However, Crimson Tide ace Montana Fouts often makes the best out of worst case scenarios and did so again, snuffing out the Wildcats' hopes with her 11th strikeout as Alabama held off Kentucky 4-3 to take Game 1 of their Super Regional.
The Crimson Tide and Wildcats will meet up again Saturday at Rhoads Saturday at 1 p.m. for Game 2. With a win, third-seeded Alabama advances to the Women's College World Series.
"I knew 'Tana was going to strike her out," said Alabama outfielder KB Sides. "I don't care if she's down 3-0, I think she's going to strike everybody out."
Fouts (25-3) gave up her first home run since May 7 in the top of the fourth to Kentucky centerfielder Renee Abernathy, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead. She subsequently retired the next eight Wildcat batters until Abernathy came up again in the seventh and hit her second home run of the day to cut into Alabama's lead to 4-3.
Two singles and an intentional walk later, Kentucky had the bases loaded and the tying run 60 feet away.
Murphy said the adversity faced earlier in the season prepared Alabama for this moment.
"We went through all kinds of crap at the beginning of the year, middle of the year, and all those adverse situations are coming back to help us now because we know how to handle that," Murphy said.
Alabama found itself hitless through the first three innings and did not have a runner reach base against starter Autumn Humes (22-9).
All it took was a one-out single from Bailey Hemphill in the fourth, and the floodgates opened for the Alabama offense. Hemphill's single was followed by two more from Kaylee Tow and Jenna Johnson for Sides to come to the plate with the bases loaded.
She promptly cleared the bases with a triple to give Alabama (49-7) its first lead of the day 3-2.
Two batters later, Maddie Morgan delivered a two-out single to score Sides in what turned out to be the winning run.
"That was a big, big hit," Murphy said. "At the time, maybe didn't people didn't think that, but obviously that was the difference in the game."
Even though the Alabama head coach joked about needing some Tums and time to recuperate, he could rest easier knowing his team was up 1-0 in the best-of-three series instead of the other way around against the dangerous Wildcats (43-15).
"It's great to get the first one," Murphy said.