Alabama Crimson Tide Softball WCWS Game 2 vs UCLA
The Crimson Tide has cleared the first hurdle of the Women’s College World Series with a 5-1 win over 11-seed Arizona. The next obstacle is a bit tougher - defending champs UCLA (47-5).
The last WCWS was in 2019 but many of these Bruins were a part of that team. Six starters and the top three pitchers from that team are back on this year’s squad. Among them are First Team NFCA All-Americans Rachel Garcia, Aaliyah Jordan, Megan Faraimo, and third-teamer Briana Perez. Also on both the 2019 and 2021 teams is US Olympian selection Bubba Nickles.
Alabama has never beaten UCLA in nine previous meetings. The last time the Bruins and Crimson Tide met should be fresh on Montana Fouts’s mind. It was in February 2020 before the shutdown in a tournament played in Clearwater, FL. The Tide ace had a tough time finding the strike zone as she walked four in the first inning and then the first batter of the second. After she hit the next batter, Patrick Murphy lifted her in favor of Lexi Kilfoyl, who did not put up the greatest of performances. UCLA’s Faraimo pitched seven scoreless innings for the powder blue and gold allowing only two harmless singles for a 7-0 win.
Previous to that game, the two teams have not met since the 2006 WCWS.
The Bruins have been Top 3 most of the season but have looked sketchy at times versus lesser opponents in this year’s postseason.
If you have been a fan of softball the last couple of years, all you have heard about it is Rachel Garcia, Rachel Garcia, and Rachel Garcia. She was the hero and workhorse of the 2019 campaign, starting all five games and pitching every single inning of their five game romp to the WCWS trophy. She took 2020 off to travel and train with the Olympic Team, but came back to campus this year as a 24-year old super mega senior. She holds an 18-1 record with a tiny 0.89 ERA.
In the last two games against Virginia Tech and FSU, she has been lights out with complete game shutouts and double digit Ks. However in the Super Regional opener against the Hokies, she took her first loss of the season after giving up six runs over 4.0 innings. Two games before that, she allowed four runs to Fresno in a Regional victory.
Number two hurler Faraimo (19-3, 1.10 ERA) injured her right hand and did not travel with the team to Oklahoma City. Unless the Bruins parachute her in from a Stealth plane during the National Anthem, she will not be available. Holly Azevedo (8-1, 1.83 ERA, 61.1 IP) is next in line. However unless Bama shells Garcia tonight, there is not much reason to think their ace doesn’t go the distance.
Joining Garcia (who also hits: .345, 12 HR, 32 RBI), Jordan (.326, 8 HR, 44 RBI), Perez (.358, 13 HR, 41 RBI, 51 runs), and Nickles (.338, 4 HR, 22 RBI) is 2020 Freshman Player of the Year Maya Brady (.333, 14 HR, 38 RBI) who has a pretty famous uncle. UCLA is somewhat like Alabama in that you never know who is going to come up with the big hit in any give game. Last night, it was Brady who hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning.
Expect Montana Fouts to the start and stay in the game as long as possible.
Regarding the United States Softball Olympic Team, the tryouts were held in the fall of 2019 in anticipation of a 2020 Olympics. Despite the Tokyo Summer Games being pushed to this year, the powers that be decided to just go with the roster they had originally picked. Though Nickles had a good, but not great 2021 season, she is still on the roster. She did not even make All-American this year. Last night, we saw fellow Olympian Dejah Mulipola strike out three times. Fouts was one of the last players cut and may have a little extra motivation flowing tonight. I hope the Olympic Committee knows what they are doing.
Former Alabama great Haylie McCleney is also on the team.
Sorry, y’all. More Beth Mowins I’m afraid. At least Kayla Braud is there representin’.
Winners of tonight’s games get Saturday off to await the winners of the losers’ brackets.