How special was Montana Fouts' perfect game?
- It was the sixth in WCWS history, the first since Southern Miss’ Courtney Blades in 2000 -- days before Fouts was born.
- It is the sixth postseason no-hitter for Alabama and the first postseason perfect game
- The win was the first over UCLA in program history, breaking a streak of 10-straight wins by the Bruins in the all-time series
Here's what both teams had to say after the game.
Coach Patrick Murphy
Q. This is a little bit off-topic. On a night that Montana's perfect game, but your team has hit pretty much a quarter of your home runs this season since the SEC tournament started. You don't build your lineups around home runs usually, but was that a missing ingredient or just a bonus that you've seen develop in recent weeks?
PATRICK MURPHY: I think more of a bonus because like Maddie had come close so many times and for whatever reason it just didn't happen for her and she hit the key home run against Kentucky in super regionals just like she did a couple years ago when we clinched the SEC down in Baton Rouge. So I always say you never know what's going to happen, just keep swinging hard and good things are going to happen for us. I think they're starting to see the ball really well and I definitely think we're peaking at the right time.
Q. Can you talk about Montana and what she was feeling out there, what you were feeling while she was in the circle just dealing it tonight?
PATRICK MURPHY: Well, it's a special, first of all, it's her birthday, so a hell of a birthday present to herself. Just to watch greatness is pretty cool. All of you were a witness to it. So, didn't think she would get better from yesterday, but she did. And these are, obviously you guys know, these are good teams. I mean, this is the King of the Pac 12, the Pac 12 champions, and to throw a perfect game against legendary UCLA is something else for a kid from a small town from northeast Kentucky. So just unbelievable feeling. And I knew she had a no-hitter, but to be honest with you, I didn't realize it was a perfect game, so Sarah Cornell had to tell me afterwards, but just fun to watch.
Q. What has gone into Montana being so dominant over this last part of the season for you guys?
PATRICK MURPHY: Well, I think everything's clicking for her too. First, Stephanie Prothro has done one hell of a job with the entire pitching staff. But when Montana came, she had curveball, fastball, and that was basically it. She threw a high fastball as her rise ball. And she has just developed those pitches, the movement pitches, and we knew she had the speed, but when she got the movement, it was going to be pretty special. Nobody wants to take any time anymore and it has to be instant gratification and it takes time to develop these pitches. And when we left last March, she said to me, and she was disappointed with her season last year, which it wasn't the worst, it was, I still took it, but she said, That will never happen again. And she made it a point, just like Kaylee said, to work her butt off, starting in August, to become what she is right now. So hard work pays off.
Q. In that month that Lexi missed, what did the Montana show you, and I guess what did she due to elevate her game over that span?
PATRICK MURPHY: Well, I think she really started to take care of her body, for sure, pre-pitch, post-game, and that's key. Our athletic training staff did a great job with her, but she went in and pre-games she did a bunch of stuff, and then after the game, and then the day after as well before the game she would go in. But everything is kind of working together right now and she's just been more, her endurance is great, her shape is great, and of course every day she will say something to me, like, I'm good to go. I believe her now.
Q. I don't know if you were able to see it yet just coming off the field, but Nate Oats was tweeting at you guys pretty much all game and I know there was a little bit of a personal vendetta there coming off the loss to UCLA in March. You talk about the fraternity of coaches you guys have. Talk about how special this win was, first win against UCLA all time, and kind of return the favor for Oats.
PATRICK MURPHY: Yeah, I don't know if Montana knew, that but that's the first time we have beaten UCLA. So, again, happy birthday. Yeah, it was, I mean, we have such respect for their entire program. Their coaching staff is great. So this is just a huge win for us. The whole athletic department, we can feel it here. It's such a cool feeling that everybody has our backs, basically Tuscaloosa, west Alabama, the whole state, really. You can tell that they're watching. You get so many messages from all over really the country, and Coach Oats is one of my favorite people at Alabama, and the whole coaching fraternity there has been just terrific.
Q. I think offensively what doesn't get talked about enough is the success of Jenna Johnson and Savannah Woodard these first two days. Jenna's collected a couple of RBIs to begin the game, and then Savannah's gone basically, I think, three or four times in the first two games. Talk about how beneficial it is to have them produce for your lineup?
PATRICK MURPHY: One of the goals tonight was to put the ball in play because we knew Rachel's, she's an Olympian, she's one of the best countries in the country and one of the best pitchers and we wanted to put the ball in play, and obviously in the first inning, Matt, Bailey, and then Jenna, and it was a big RBI for both of them, Bailey and Jenna, but then Sav comes up and kind of starts a rally for us and both of them have been unsung heroes, just putting the ball in play. And they're both pretty quick. They put pressure on the defense. And I was pleased up and down the lineup. I thought we did a really good job against obviously one of the best players in the country.
Pitcher Montana Fouts
Q. First off, happy birthday. And my question is, how does this rank as I guess one of the better birthdays you've ever had? Is it the best birthday you've ever had? Second best?
MONTANA FOUTS: Well, last year I didn't get to spend it with my team and the year before I think we were on our way home and that was, my birthday was the day after. So I think, if anything, we got the win, and I'm just happy to be with my teammates right now.
Q. Emphasis on just spinning the ball more. How has that elevated your game throughout the season?
MONTANA FOUTS: I mean, I love to throw hard, but the best hitters in the country, you can't throw 90 or they're going to hit it. I just think spin, spin, spin, and speed does help and I appreciate my speed, but at the same time, that's not always there, so you got to rely a lot more on spin.
Q. Coach just mentioned that you told him after the last season, that was never going to happen again, the type of performance that you had. Everything that you did starting in August led to this moment. What exactly did you do to get to this point?
MONTANA FOUTS: Well, I think this point started in 2020. I think that we had to go through all of that to get where we're at and feeling what we're feeling right now. But, honestly, I was just trusting in the process, like Murph says all the time, that's what we need to do and I was trusting that process, I was trusting God's process, and my coaches. I just think they believe in me, so why can't I believe in myself.
Q. From your excitement, the biggest person that was more excited was your dad. So I have to know, how does it feel, not only this for you, but also your family who have been with you since the beginning?
MONTANA FOUTS: You know, I'm just so grateful for them. Obviously I wouldn't be where I'm at without them. But I think that the most exciting part is we got the win, so I think that we'll celebrate a little bit tonight and then we're going to move on and get ready for the next one.
Q. At what point in the game did you realize you had some things special going and once you did how hard was that to get that out of your mind and then just focus on getting the next batter out?
MONTANA FOUTS: I honestly wasn't really thinking about it. I don't think you can think like that as a pitcher, as a player or even in the stands really, because I feel like I'm a superstitious person, but I don't know, I was just locked in each pitch because I know that one swing away they have momentum, they're a great hitting team, great pitching staff, we respect them so much. So I think -- Murph says all the time -- respect your opponents. And tonight for me I think that that just meant locking in pitch by pitch, just because I know the game could get away in a heart beat.
Q. Can you talk about the incident in the second inning where your necklace got wrapped up in your mask? What was going on there and has that ever happened before?
MONTANA FOUTS: It's only happened a couple times, but usually I can get it undone myself. I think I left a couple of pitches, I wasn't really happy with the spin on them and I thought they were a little flat, so I ran from the dugout and I told Steph, I thought Jesus was trying to tell me something, spin it a little bit, so I think that's what he was trying to tell me, so.. (laughing).
Q. In the last seven NCAA tournament games your team has been able to get off to a hot start and score first in four of those. Talk about how great it is to know you go out to the circle and have a lead and how much more comfortable that gives you in a calming presence?
MONTANA FOUTS: You definitely get more comfortable, but I just know that Murph says all the time again, If they don't score, we win. But at the same time we do have to score. I think that they just want it so much, each and every batter, they're just battling every pitch and I just think that they have so much heart and I think that they deserve everything right now.
Player Kaylee Tow
Q. Can you just describe the feeling in the emotion of being apart of a perfect game?
KAYLEE TOW: Well, if you know Montana, you know that that perfect game started back in August when she was working so hard and she was the first one to the field and the last one to leave. So just seeing it come full circle for her and her being able to see her hard work pay off, she's an awesome person and awesome friend and an awesome teammate and it couldn't happen to a better person. I feel just blessed to be here, blessed to be a part of this team, and blessed to play behind her.
Q. What was the feeling on the field when it became clear that what Montana was doing for y'all? Just describe how you all were feeling on the field?
KAYLEE TOW: I think I realized about the fifth inning that she was throwing a perfect game, but we all know the unwritten rule of never saying that they're throwing the perfect game. So, and I think we were just trying to be calm, cool, and collected, make the plays, to keep that for her and allow her to have that moment. So no one wanted to talk about it until the end, but of course we went crazy there at the end for her.
Q. Kaylee, you struck out on the changeup. Were you anticipating a changeup going into, later in the count?
KAYLEE TOW: Well, obviously I looked kind of silly on it and so I was thinking that they might try me with it again, but my dad was talking to me yesterday and he was, like, You know she's going to give you one over the plate, so if she does, hit it over the center field wall, and of course I didn't think I was going to hit it over the center field wall, but I was just looking for something really sweet and just trying to hit it hard.
Q. You have a difficult position in the batting order in batting behind Bailey Hemphill. What have you done to really embrace that role and be so successful?
KAYLEE TOW: I just see it as an opportunity. I know that I'm going to get a pitch and it's probably going to be in an opportunity where there's an RBI situation, so I'm grateful to be in that role and thankful that Murph's put me in that role, so just use it as an opportunity. But I don't put too much pressure on myself because I know that I'm going to come through in situations and I'm not going to come through in other situations. That's just part of the game. But it's not making the moment bigger than it is and just trying to have Bailey's back.
Q. Kaylee, you touched on it in that answer, but you obviously had the home run against Florida in 2019 at the World Series. How special is it to be able to hit one in this kind of environment at this point in the season for your team?
KAYLEE TOW: Well, it is special because we always want to win every single game and however you can help the team win is an awesome thing. I also love it because I feel like they make it a little bit more special here for your family when you hit a home run, and my family has followed me since I was a little girl. They have done absolutely everything to make my dreams come true. So I just get so excited when they get to have that moment in Oklahoma City because it kind of celebrates what they have done as well.
Q. You mentioned that this started for Montana back in August, but even over the last month or since the start of the SEC tournament she seems to have taken her game to a different level. Do you see anything as a teammate that explains kind of that surge over the last month?
KAYLEE TOW: Well, Montana's actually my best friend off the field, so I've just kind of seen this journey for her as she's grown into just an awesome pitcher and an awesome woman, but I think it's the confidence that she brings and the refusal to lose. You can see it in her eyes that she's not going to lose because she's so competitive. And her journey off the field, she's grown so much, she's grown into a confident woman, and you see that out on the mound. I'm so proud of her and I'm grateful that she allows me to be her friend.
Q. Your team is now back to the semi-finals since 2019. That's an amazing feeling. So for you guys, how does it feel that knowing that a year ago there wasn't any sports, but now to be here again and have another chance and in the semi-finals?
KAYLEE TOW: It's a blessing and we're so grateful. I couldn't be more excited that the seven seniors are getting to go to another semi-final, and this time we're coming through the winner's bracket, so it's a really good feeling and a good position, but we know that anybody that we're going to play is going to be tough. I'm just excited for these seniors to get to play another game and me to get to be their teammate for another day.
Coach Kelly Inouye-Perez
Q. Just seeing your lineup go up against Montana Fouts tonight, what adjustments are you focusing on making for tomorrow?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: Hitting the ball. That's probably the biggest adjustment. We did not do a good job of hitting the ball tonight. So that's it.
Q. What was the game plan against Fouts and what parts of that kind of fell short when it actually came time to hit?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: I think the girls talked to that. We know that she pounds the zone and to be able to come out aggressively was our plan and I don't have answers for why we weren't able to come out and execute it. She's obviously a great pitcher. I think it's more about giving credit where credit is due. Credit Alabama. Montana Fouts was dominant tonight, clearly. She was perfect, right? And Alabama executed on offense and executed on defense.
So I don't think there's anything more to say except for we didn't play our game and credit Alabama more than I say anything else. For us, we have got to have short-term memory playing our game. And I've seen this team do it so much. I've seen them play multiple games, as Aaliyah said, in the PAC-12 that I have a great vision of where we're going. But we got to play the game one pitch at a time, have a short-term memory, and get back to just playing our style of play. We did not execute tonight and you can't win ball games at this point in the season against a quality team like Alabama without being able to execute.
Q. Like you said about short-term memory, because during this game we saw also some mental mistakes that's not normally seen from the UCLA team. So do you think you don't even need to preach down about the mistakes that you made and you believe that they're going to push on and move on to the next goal?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: No, actually, after every game from February, even at practice, we have a consistent routine. We always come in and we always, I always have them own what they could be better at. And they do an excellent job. We owned it. We didn't play defense. We weren't aggressive. We didn't work ahead in the count. We didn't have each other's backs. So I didn't even have to say it. It is part of our routine to own it. We understand what we did and we have got to learn from it. But I always say very simply, it's not what happens, it's what you do next that is your defining moment. So this team has no problem owning when they fall short. They don't get emotional. They get upset. But I think in the bigger picture they respond and I'm going to rely and hope that that team shows up tomorrow.
So to answer your question, we definitely owned it tonight. You don't have short-term memory and say, oh, you know, let it go. We owned it, but then we're going to do something about it and that's the plan is to be able to come out and play our style of play because we clearly did not play that tonight.
Q. You guys lost a game against, in super regionals last weekend against Virginia Tech and came back and responded really nicely, won those couple games. How can you kind of draw back on that experience in this kind of a similar situation?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: Yeah, it's exactly what you said. It's experience. So we have had actually a lot of adversity through this season, so it hasn't been an easy ride at all. And the best part about the journey, a season, is that when you have those moments of adversity, you have the ability to do something about it. If it was easy all the time, then when things like this happen, you don't know what to do. But we actually have a lot of experience in adversity, in not being able to execute, in not having each other's backs. That's what a season provides. And with that, we have great experience and we showed it in super regionals.
Now is the time to just get really committed and really convicted and what you're going to do and put yourself in a position. Our sport is interesting. There's no timeline on it. We got to play the game one pitch at a time and this team knows that they got to come out and throw some punches tomorrow and I have no doubt that we will.
Q. How do you feel like Rachel performed today?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: Rachel did the best that Rachel could do. It's out of her control, a lot of things that were happening around her. But we did put a lot of pressure on her and we own that as well. I simply said that Rachel can't do this on her own. There's things that she owned as well that she could have done a better job of coming up with pitches or working ahead in the count, but I made sure that she was clear, and the team made sure that she was clear, that we were all clear, that it's not on Rachel Garcia. We didn't lose tonight because Rachel Garcia was not on her A game. We lost because we didn't play great defensively and we didn't make adjustments at the plate and defense wins championships here at the end, we know this, and we did not have her back. So it's not on Rachel Garcia. She did everything that she could and we're going to wipe the slate clean and I say bring it on. I'm going to give Rachel the ball and we're going to see just what this team is made of.
Q. You got Holly in the game and a good opportunity for her and there may be some opportunities moving forward for her to come in and pitch some, so how significant was it and what did you think of her performance?
KELLY INOUYE-PEREZ: That was a bright spot. That was the first thing that I said when I came is Holly came in and she was prepared for that moment. This team has confidence in Holly because we have seen her do it in the PAC, she's pitched great games for us, she's shut down offenses and we know that she will put balls in play and the defense has to have her back and they actually did that tonight. Holly came in and did what Holly did and it really, for me, it was a very huge pick me up that Holly was prepared for that moment, to switch a little bit of the momentum back to us. She's ready to do whatever she can, it's all hands on deck, we know that this team trusts her, we know Rachel can't do this by herself so we're going to once again just play the game one pitch at a time and see what happens.
Players Aaliyah Jordan and Briana Perez
Q. For each of you, just talk about the challenge that Montana Fouts presents and how difficult it was facing her tonight. Briana, can we start with you please.
BRIANA PEREZ: She's a great pitcher. We went in with a game plan, we let her get ahead in a lot of counts and didn't make an adjustment throughout the game and so here we are.
AALIYAH JORDAN: We just took a lot of strikes and swung at a lot of balls so we got ourselves out most of the time.
Q. You guys had a lot of kind of on-the-field meetings in the circle with Rachel and the entire infield. What were some of those conversations you were having?
BRIANA PEREZ: Just staying lose, talking about batters, talking about pitch calling, talking about our plan. Just trying to play our game honestly. Stay within ourselves.
Q. Aaliyah, you're a leader on this team what was the message the mood in the locker room knowing that you guys have to take the long road to the, to defend your title now?
AALIYAH JORDAN: I think now we have a longer route, but I think the Pac-12 definitely prepared us for this, we played four games in a weekend before and had to beat teams four times, so even though we have to play a few more games I think we can do it.
Q. Obviously after a game like this you have to come back in 24 hours and play again. How does the team have to like work together to get that energy back and the momentum for that?
AALIYAH JORDAN: I don't think we were all very down right now, I think we just knew that we got ourselves out and so I think tomorrow coming out, playing our game is really all we can do.
BRIANA PEREZ: I don't think energy will be a problem. That's our sport, right? You go to sleep and you have to wake up the next day and do it all again. So I think we'll be all right.
Q. Holly came late in the game to pitch for you guys, so what are you doing, not just tonight, but throughout this whole trip, to make sure she's fully supported out there?
AALIYAH JORDAN: I think just talking to her, hyping her up on the field, that's all we really can do. I think she's prepared enough, so we all have Holly's back, so I think she can do it.
Transcript courtesy ASAPsports