This weekend, Alabama softball opens the 2019 home schedule with the Easton Bama Bash. Minnesota, Missouri State and Louisiana-Monroe will be the three teams coming into Rhoads Stadium from Friday to Sunday.

At 10-0 to start the season, the Crimson Tide has shown the potential to be one of the top teams in college softball. A big reason why they have shown signs of promise is in the circle.

Montana Fouts Earns SEC Freshman of the Week

Crimson Tide Photos / UA Athletics

Earlier this week, true freshman pitcher Montana Fouts earned her first individual award as a member of the Crimson Tide with the SEC's Freshman of the Week honor.

The Grayson, Kentucky, native pitched complete game victories over South Florida and Arizona including a shutout of USF. In the Hillenbrand Invitational, Fouts allowed just one unearned run on nine hits with no walks and 20 strikeouts.

Including the impressive numbers, Alabama head coach Patrick Murphy relayed a conversation he had with Troy head coach Beth Mullins about Fouts's control in the circle.

"Unbelievable. The Troy coach Beth Mullins told me after the one game. She watched the film and she goes, 'Murph, she was impressive.' Her pitch location is what she was talking about mainly." Murphy said.

When referencing some 3-1 counts and full counts that Fouts experienced last weekend, Murphy further pinpointed the primary reason for her outstanding location from the circle.

"The key to her though is she's not going to throw it right over the middle. She's still going to get a quality strike and most of the time they either popped up or grounded out. She had some strikeouts, but she's just in and out of the zone a lot." Murphy said.

Easton Bama Bash Field

NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Although this weekend's field doesn't have the quantity of NCAA Regional participants from a year ago, the trio of teams coming into town could offer some quality competition for the Crimson Tide.

Minnesota makes their first trip to Tuscaloosa since losing a pair of 1-0 decisions to the Crimson Tide in the 2017 NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional.

Amber Fiser leads the Golden Gophers in the circle with a 3-2 mark along with a 0.78 ERA and 41 strikeouts compared to just four walks.

Even though Minnesota is just 4-3 on the season, they have played five teams that made an NCAA regional last season including 2018 national champion Florida State.

During his visit with reporters Wednesday, Murphy gave a favorable impression of the Gophers going into the weekend.

"They're coaching staff does a great job. They're one of the top two or three teams in the Big Ten. They have a junior pitcher that's very, very good. They have a lefty pitcher that's good. They have several kids leftover from that team that was here two years ago for regional finals. I'm sure they remember all that." Murphy said.

Missouri State enters the Easton Bama Bash with a 6-4 record including wins over Auburn and South Alabama during the opening weekend of the season in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The Bears have a solid .287 team batting average led by sophomore Madison Hunsaker's .469 average, 15 hits and 4 RBIs in her first nine starts of the season.

For Louisiana-Monroe, they are led by a familiar name in recent Alabama softball history. First year head coach Molly Fichtner played two seasons for the Crimson Tide including a Second Team All-SEC selection as a senior catcher in 2014.

While the Warhawks have started off slow at 1-9, Murphy talked about Fichtner's job of building the softball culture at ULM.

"She's building a new culture there, building a tradition. It's just going to be fun to see her, play against her. We're really proud of her." Murphy said.

Taking Advantage in the Circle

NCAA Softball via Twitter

Although Alabama's pitchers have posted impressive numbers through 10 games this season, head coach Patrick Murphy is still looking for improvement.

When discussing the keys to the weekend, Alabama's head coach touched on the pitchers needing to do a better job of finishing batters from the circle.

"We talked about the 1-2 count a little bit with the pitchers and the catchers. When we're ahead in the count and it's one and two, that next pitch, that needs to be the decider. They need to get the person out on four pitches." Murphy said.

Weekend Schedule

Photo Courtesy of Alabama Athletics

With the possibility of rain in the forecast for Friday and Saturday, Alabama softball has already adjusted their schedule for the first two days of the tournament. Friday's games have been moved up thirty minutes while Saturday's contests have been pushed forward one hour from their originally scheduled start times.

Friday

Minnesota vs. Louisiana-Monroe 11 AM

Missouri State vs. Louisiana-Monroe 1 PM

Alabama vs. Missouri State 3:30 PM

Alabama vs. Minnesota 6 PM

 

Saturday

Missouri State vs. Louisiana-Monroe 10 AM

Alabama vs. Missouri State 12:30 PM

Alabama vs. Minnesota 3 PM

Minnesota vs. Louisiana-Monroe 6 PM

 

Sunday

Minnesota vs. Missouri State 11 AM

Alabama vs. Louisiana-Monroe 1:30 PM