OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — As Montana Fouts took agency command towards UCLA, throwing one strike after one other, stymying Olympians and everybody else within the lineup, her dad stood within the Alabama supporters part with out really realizing what was unfolding in entrance of him.
In a resort room a number of miles down the street late on Friday night time, Courtney Blades-Rogers knew precisely what was about to occur. She realized it within the fourth inning, the truth is. Blades-Rogers, the final pitcher to throw an ideal sport within the WCWS, began to chew her nails. If she is being sincere, she thought to herself, “please, stroll SOMEBODY.”
Within the high of the sixth inning, her household realized Fouts was inching nearer to an ideal sport, a feat that will put Fouts in the identical firm that Blades-Rogers entered in 2000 as a senior at Southern Miss. Her son got here as much as her and requested, “Mother, are you going to be upset if she throws an ideal sport?”
In the meantime, contained in the stadium, somebody got here as much as Tim Fouts with two outs left within the seventh inning and instructed him, “Montana is about to throw an ideal sport!”
“I used to be like, ‘What? No means, how do you try this towards UCLA?'” Tim Fouts stated. “That simply would not occur. So very happy with her, and shocked, to be sincere with you. I am shocked.”
An hour after Montana Fouts turned the fifth pitcher to throw an ideal sport within the WCWS in a 6-0 win over the Bruins, and the primary since Blades-Rogers, Tim Fouts remained speechless. Tim had seen his daughter throw no-hitters and excellent video games in highschool. Since she began throwing a softball at age 7, he noticed each sport and each pitch, but watching his personal baby make historical past towards one of the crucial historic applications in faculty softball appeared too unbelievable to imagine.
Though he had helped prime Fouts for this very second.
As quickly as Montana expressed an curiosity in desirous to pitch, Tim decided he would be taught from one of the best to make his daughter one of the best. They have been enormous followers of softball pitching royalty Jennie Finch, so he requested her dad, Doug, “Who teaches Jennie?”
“Me,” he stated.
“Then I wish to be taught from you,” Tim stated.
Montana attended numerous Finch summer season camps, and Tim proceeded in the identical means Doug did with Jennie, refusing to complicate a lot along with her mechanics.
Tim would make the 80-mile drive from his dwelling in Charleston, West Virginia, to Grayson, Kentucky, the place Montana lived along with her mother. By the point she completed highschool, Montana turned one of the best pitching prospect within the nation, having thrown 25 no-hitters and 15 excellent video games and incomes 2018 USA As we speak All-USA Excessive Faculty Participant of the 12 months honors.
She gained 21 video games as a freshman at Alabama with a team-leading 1.39 ERA and appeared properly on her strategy to greatness. After an early match in Arizona that first season, Alabama coach Patrick Murphy told espnW, “She’s going to be one of those kids where if you just say, ‘Montana,’ you’re going to know who it is.”
Alabama’s Montana Fouts throws just the fifth perfect game in Women’s College World Series history on her 21st birthday.
But entering her sophomore year in 2020, something felt a little off with her game. She won only three of her eight starts in the COVID-19-shortened season with an uncharacteristic 2.04 ERA. When players were sent home indefinitely in March, she told Murphy how disappointed she was with her season.
“That will never happen again,” she told him.
She returned home, and Tim Fouts said Montana did a lot of fishing, a lot of relaxing, “just laying low.” She also committed herself to rediscovering the groove that made her a pitcher with the potential to be the best player in the country. Tim calls the 2020 season “a mulligan.”
“This point started in 2020,” Montana Fouts said. “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?”
Teammates saw a reinvigorated Fouts when they returned to campus.
“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,” first baseman Kaylee Tow said. “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.”
Montana Fouts tosses 14 K’s in a perfect game, the first in the WCWS in over 20 years, to lift No. 3 Alabama to a 6-0 win against No. 2 UCLA.
Fouts has been virtually unstoppable since mid-April, the last time she lost a game. ESPN analyst Amanda Scarborough, a former pitcher at Texas A&M, noticed a change after teammate Lexi Kilfoyl got injured around the same time.
“When Lexi was unable to throw for a few weeks, it put more on Montana Fouts, and she took it and ran with it,” Scarborough said. “She wanted more, just like she wants to ball in the big moments. So I felt like she likes knowing that the pressure was on her, and she thrives in those moments, and she just has gotten better and better. Just like in a regular-season series, she would get better in game three. She’s built and built and built to become what she is here now.”
In the SEC tournament, she went 3-0 and set a tournament record with 39 strikeouts. Her shutout of Florida in the championship game was the first in the SEC title game since 2006. She continued the dominance in the regionals against Clemson, throwing two complete games and striking out 28. Then she pitched another complete game in the super regional against Kentucky.
In the WCWS opener against Arizona, she struck out 16, then took the mound again Friday to face UCLA, the 2019 champion. Bubba Nickles and Rachel Garcia, headed to the Olympics after the WCWS, had no luck in the first inning — and that just set the stage for what was to come. Alabama had never beaten UCLA in softball, until Friday night.
“When Montana came, she had curveball, fastball, and that was basically it,” Murphy said. “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. She made it a point to work her butt off to become what she is right now.”
“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.”
Alabama first baseman Kaylee Tow
Blades-Rogers happened to be in Oklahoma City with Georgia softball, where her daughter, Britton Rogers, is a freshman pitcher. The team gathered in its hotel to watch the game, and Blades-Rogers was lasered in on Fouts — a pitcher she tells her own daughter to study from time to time.
There were a few moments when the walk that Blades-Rogers had hoped for nearly happened. Fouts had a 3-0 count in the bottom of the third before a strike to Kelli Godin and then a groundout. Garcia and Aaliyah Jordan both had three-ball counts in the fourth. Briana Perez was up 3-0 in the count before two fouls and a swinging strikeout to end the fifth.
Blades-Rogers started flashing back to her own history-making performance, a 1-0 WCWS win against Arizona.
“UCLA swung at a rise ball, and I know that feeling, too, because I remember, I had a 3-2 count and the ball came out of my hand, and it was supposed to be a screwball,” Blades-Rogers said. “When it came out of my hand, I was like, ‘Oh, no,’ and it went up. And the girl swung. So I know the feeling.
“When you’re a pitcher, you always have hopes and dreams of doing something great like that. It’s a culmination of tons of work, a lot of sweat and a lot of tears, probably more tears than sweat. Because you just have days that are great. And you have days that are not great. And then when you go out there, when I was watching her, she looked locked in. And that’s how I knew in the fourth inning, I’m like, ‘She’s not giving up a hit.’ It is unbelievable that she did it because it is so hard.”
Blades-Rogers watched it all unfold, Alexis Mack catching Jordan’s flyout on the warning track to seal it and the ensuing celebration — on Fouts’ 21st birthday, no less — but she was not upset. A little sad, yes, but not upset. How could she be?
There is a tremendous sense of pride and appreciation in watching another pitcher master her craft the way Fouts has. In fact, Blades-Rogers said she believes Fouts is “changing the game.
“A lot of young pitchers can look at her and just say, ‘Hey, I want to be like her.'”