11 hours ago
Grace Wesoly | SEC Network
Fayetteville, Ark. – No. 5 seed Alabama defeated defending SEC Tournament champion No. 4 seed Arkansas, 3-2, in an intense nine-round bout.
In the top of the ninth with two outs, Bailey Dowling’s hot shot from the left field line netted two runs for the quarterfinal overtime win. The Hogs pushed another run on their final comeback attempt, but couldn’t convert another.
The highly anticipated battle in the circle began as planned with Montana Fouts and Chenise Delce each achieving two strikeouts in the first frame.
“She’s the heart of this team,” Dowling said, describing Fouts. “She’s the leader. That’s it. We love her and everything for this team and Montana.”
The two then threw over 100 pitches apiece as Fouts struck out nine in 6.2 innings and Delce went 10 in 8.1 innings. The Tide took an early 1-0 lead due to a fielding error in the second frame before Cylie Halvorson later leveled the game with an RBI single through the middle in the sixth, 1-1.
As the ninth approached, Delce began to run out of steam as she walked two batters and a passed ball put them in scoring position. Dowling’s two RBI missile past the third period set Alabama’s victory in motion as the Hogs fired Delce off the mound, 3-1. Arkansas pushed one more run through the plate before finalizing the 3-2 decision.
“Honestly, I was just trying to see some ground that I could drive and do it for Montana and my teammates,” Dowling said. “As soon as Montana came out it fired me up and I just wanted to do it for them.”
As the NCAA’s strikeout leader with 311 on the season, Fouts guided the Tide through nearly seven innings against the Hogs. Fouts left the game with an apparent leg or ankle injury in the seventh inning, leaving a runner first with two out as Alex Salter took over in the circle. She left the game with 108 pitches thrown including 66 strikes, nine strikeouts, three walks, three wild pitches and five hits allowed.
“We just went with her,” Dowling said of Fouts after the game. “I mean, Salt came over there, she pitched really well, gave us a chance and we did it.”
As the 2022 SEC Tournament Champions, Arkansas was looking to win its second title in program history. The Hogs now hold a 14-19 overall record in the tournament with 2021 and 2022 regular season titles on the books. Arkansas is also the only SEC team to record top-four conference finishes in each of the past three seasons.
Alabama marked its 26th appearance in the SEC Tournament with an all-time record of 46-27 in the tournament. Head coach Patrick Murphy is 42-27 in the SEC tournament and the Tide is looking for its seventh tournament title.
“We’ve been working towards that all year. It’s a young team with eight newcomers, five freshmen,” head coach Murphy said. “I think tonight you saw the real Alabama, just gritty, resilient.”
How did it happen
T2 | Ally Shipman started the second with a single to the left side, moving to second after Emma Broadfoot walked. The Hogs clinched the first out of the inning before a costly fielding error by first baseman Halvorson helped Kristen White to the top spot and score a run. A wild pitch would advance both runners into the scoring position, but Delce stayed strong, recording another strikeout. Fans held their breath as Larissa Preuitt sent a fly ball into left field and left fielder Raigan Kramer charged in to perform an impressive dive, causing the home crowd to erupt in ecstasy. Alabama 1, Arkansas 0
T3 | After Dowling landed an infield single, Kenleigh Cahalan drilled a line drive to left field as Kramer sprinted at full speed to the foul line, making yet another incredible catch to hold back the tide as the Arkansas finished the inning easily with momentum on their side. Alabama 1, Arkansas 0
T4 | Delce gave him a pair of grounders to get two first outs before White and Jenna Johnson landed back-to-back singles to left field, landing at second and third with the threat of another run looming. The battle between Delce and Preuitt had the crowd on their toes as they headed for a full count. Arkansas fans went wild after Delce tempted Preuitt with a rising ball high and far, hitting her swinging to end the inning without any damage. Alabama 1, Arkansas 0
T5 | After Delce’s first walk of the game with two outs in the fifth period, Cahalan went second on wild pitch to put Alabama back in scoring position. However, Delce held steady, sending Shipman spinning after a nine-pitch battle while recording his sixth strikeout of the game. Alabama 1, Arkansas 0
T6 | Alabama started the sixth with a walk, putting out Faith Hensley as a pinch runner to build her speed. Kali Heivilin’s bag bunt took her into second place before White smashed a line to Delce who made a stunning catch for the second outing of the set. Johnson had a hit down the middle with Hensley heading home, but Razorbacks center back Reagan Johnson fired a perfect shot to secure the final at home as the crowd erupted in response to their continued defensive dominance. Alabama 1, Arkansas 0
B6 | The Hogs carried an immense amount of momentum into the bottom of the sixth with the home crowd at their feet. Leadoff batter Johnson dribbled a grounder to third and sped to first with plenty of time, sending Arkansas fans into an uproar. Although Kramer popped his sack bunt attempt into foul territory for the first out, Johnson found another way to second after a wild throw from Fouts before intentionally walking Hedgecock who also received a pinch runner. Halvorson stepped in as the crowd waited impatiently, and she delivered in the form of a simple line drive to center field that brought the link run and placed runners into the corners. Kristina Foreman appeared to provide two outs for Tide, but Halvorson then advanced to second on wild pitch and Hannah Gammill was intentionally walked to load the bases. With the lead on the line and Kacie Hoffman at bat, Fouts remained stoic to put him down and send the tie in the seventh. Alabama 1, Arkansas 1
B7 | Fouts left the game with an apparent leg injury after pulling Johnson out for second on the seventh, leaving a runner first as Salter took over in the circle. She threw four straight balls to Kramer before Rylin Hedgecock hit a field single to charge the bases. Halvorson entered the batter’s box with the game on the line once more, but batted into a fielder’s pick that sent the game into extra innings. Alabama 1, Arkansas 1
T8 | Delce gave up a two-out double down the left field line to Heivilin, but retired the next batter to protect the Hogs. Alabama 1, Arkansas 1
B8 | Foreman started with a walk before Gammill sent a dying line into left field, but left fielder Johnson matched her opponents’ dramatic burst with a spectacular diving catch to earn the first out and keep Foreman first. The Tide then turned a quick double play to send themselves back to bat. Alabama 1, Arkansas 1
T9 | With one out in the ninth, Delce walked two straight batters as a passed ball, then moved them to second and third. Dowling took the opportunity, hitting a flare to the hot corner that brought both base runners in and pushed Alabama ahead. Cahalan then laid down a bunt in no man’s land to put the runners on the corners, forcing the Hogs to retire Delce after 165 pitches and enter Hannah Camenzind. Cahalan qualified for second place on a wild pitch, but a comeback to second place and an inside pitch sealed the set. Alabama 3, Arkansas 1
B9 | The Razorbacks refused to give up in the ninth with two outs. Wide receiver Lauren Camenzind dropped before Alabama’s Johnson made another diving catch into left field to take Arkansas to their final. Johnson drew a walk before Kramer dropped a fly ball into shallow left field. In the panic, the home throw went wide, allowing Johnson to score and moving Kramer up to third. Alabama intentionally walked Hedgecock before Halvorson once again found himself with the game on his shoulders. A groundout to shortstop Tide finalized the overtime decision as the Hogs narrowly missed their comeback. Alabama 3, Arkansas 2
Head Coach Patrick Murphy
On Fouts’ injury… “She slipped a bit. I’ve seen it before with a pitcher where the surface becomes…like concrete and it’s slippery.”
On regrouping in extra innings… “We had way too many emotions. We were flying too fast and the butterflies were going in all directions, not in the same direction, so we had to slow down, breathe deeply and it was going to happen.”
On the rest of the tournament… “We weren’t going to pitch [Montana]. She was going to throw the first two, and then we were going to carry on with the other three the rest of the way, no matter what. So now one of the three riders has a tryout tomorrow and no matter who we’re up against, it’s going to be a great match; we know that because it’s the best tournament in the country.”
Alabama (40-17, 14-10 SEC) will face the winner of Game 9 between 1-seeded Tennessee and 8-seeded Florida in the SEC tournament semifinals on Friday, May 12 which will be played for 35 minutes. after the end of the televised match 10. on ESPN2.
Arkansas (38-17, 14-10 SEC) is eliminated from the tournament and awaits the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday night. Support for the NCAA Tournament will be released at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2.