TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama softball has relied on Montana Fouts’ machine-like efficiency in the circle all season. So far, the ace pitcher’s seemingly robotic right arm has shown no sign of fatigue.
Fouts earned SEC Pitcher of the Week honors Tuesday after leading Alabama to a pair of wins against Missouri over the weekend. The senior pitched 17⅔ of the weekend’s 22 innings, allowing four runs, three earned, on 12 hits while striking out 26 batters and issuing six walks.
In total, that resulted in 208 pitches over a three-day span.
“I always worry about I don’t want to pitch her too much,” Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy said. “But with her, she’s like Monica Abbot, you know, the bionic woman out there. Ella she can keep going, and it seems like she gets better as she throws more. I hope that’s the case.”
Fouts, 21, wasn’t alive when the sci-fi television series The Bionic Woman aired in the late 1970s. She was just seven years old when Abbot earned college softball’s player of the year award at Tennessee in 2007. However, she understands Murphy’s compliment all the same.
“I don’t know about all that,” Fouts said with a smile. “I’d say, again, [it’s] my defense making the plays. They make really hard plays that allow us to get out of innings. ship [Ally Shipman] is great behind the plate, obviously, and we have a really good athletic training staff here that takes good care of me.”
Fouts (22-5) has a 2.13 earned-run average and leads the SEC with 254 strikeouts this season. She has pitched a total of 159⅔ innings, the second-most by an SEC pitcher behind Auburn’s Maddie Penta.
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With Lexi Kilfoyl’s limited availability over the past few weeks, Fouts have seen her workload increase even more. However, the senior claims that she has actually helped her performance in the circle.
“I feel like the more that I pitch probably the better that I feel,” Fouts said. “I guess more reps, which is kind of crazy because it feels like we’ve been playing all year. But I feel like we’re just now starting to get together. Especially as a defense, I feel like all year I could have done better for my defense, but I feel like we’re starting to get a hang of it a little bit.”
One downside to Fouts’ frequency in the circle is the familiarity it provides to her opponents. Tuesday, Murphy stated the senior’s recent outings are especially impressive considering SEC teams have seen her either live or on film over the past four years.
“The more you face teams, you have to look more about them also. I guess how their swings work and stuff like that,” Fouts said. “For me personally, it’s more of trusting my defense because I feel like when I try to throw it really hard is when it gets hit really hard.”
After making three appearances against Missouri over the weekend, Fouts might be called on to face the Tigers again this week. No. 2 seed Alabama (41-10, 16-8 in the SEC) will open play in SEC Tournament on Thursday at 1:30 pm CT against the winner of Wednesday’s matchup between No. 7 seed Missouri and No. 10 seed Auburn.
This year’s SEC Tournament will be held at Florida’s Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium in Gainseville. After winning last year’s conference tournament, Alabama will need to string together three straight wins to repeat as champions.
It’s likely the Crimson Tide will once again lean on Fouts as it looks to pull off the feat. As for whether or not her right arm will be able to hold up throughout the weekend, the senior does not seem too worried.
“Not really,” Fouts said when asked if she was affected by fatigue. “I’m not going to let myself think that way until the end of the season.”
Gallery: Montana Fouts