The number of undefeated softball teams has dwindled all year, and now there's just one.
No. 5 Alabama (22-0) is the lone unbeaten program after No. 1 Florida State (23-1) suffered its first loss Wednesday against Grand Canyon.
The Crimson Tide are trying to do something no team has ever done — finish the season undefeated. Last year Washington won 28 games and UCLA won 25 before each team lost March 17 for the first time during the 2018 season. Here’s how Alabama has come this far and why it could surpass the streaks the Huskies and Bruins, who both reached the 2018 Women’s College World Series, recorded last season:
The Crimson Tide have relied on their pitching and defense recently in a way they were able to, but didn’t necessarily need to, in the majority of their previous outings this season. At no point during the Easton Crimson Classic did Alabama score more than three runs and each game was decided by two runs or less. There were no shutouts.
This week the Crimson Tide have wins against South Alabama, 5-2, and Mississippi Valley State, 7-0.
This Alabama team, which dropped at least 10 runs on opponents in three of its first four games and has run-ruled six teams, showed its pitching staff is able to sustain quality outings game after game. Freshman ace Montana Fouts is the focal point of that success. She's 8-0 in eight starts with eight complete games and a 0.51 ERA. Three others pitchers have pitched more than 19 innings this season and own ERAs of 2.70 or better. Alabama as a staff has a 1.53 ERA and teams are hitting just .179 against it.
The Crimson Tide are hitting .300 this season and average 6.5 runs per game even with the recent downturn. Junior Bailey Hemphill leads the team in home runs (9), RBIs (31) and batting average (.365). Sophomore Kaylee Tow is also batting .365. And seven of the regular starters all are batting at least .304 with at least nine runs scored and 14 hits.
It’s a balanced lineup for a balanced team that can weather a bad game from its staff in the circle, which hasn't happened often, or lackluster performances at the plate. The SEC will prove brutal again this year. But this is a Crimson Tide team that traveled to Tucson and beat now-12th ranked Arizona, 6-1. It handled two games against now-No. 22 Minnesota. And it will always have an offense with the potential to score 16 and staff and defense that can hold an opponent to zero. Alabama has shut out its opponent in more than a third of its games this season.