The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Fouts' Bama legacy more about love than wins or losses

113 days ago
Joe Menzer | SEC Network

OKLAHOMA CITY -- For Montana Fouts, her storied softball career at Alabama is over.

But fear not. Although Fouts and her coach, Patrick Murphy, both were emotional in the aftermath of the Crimson Tide's 2-0 loss to Stanford that eliminated them from the Women's College World Series, they each found reasons to smile and look to a bright future beyond that single game last month.

For one thing, Murphy predicted that the world has not seen the last of Fouts in the circle. Far from it.

"She's just an icon in the sport," said Murphy, repeating a theme he has espoused for quite some time regarding Fouts. "I hope to God that she gets to wear the USA uniform in 2028 in L.A. because I think that's the next time it will be in the Olympics. But she will be on the cover of every newspaper, every magazine, you name it, on the way up to the Olympics in '28, I guarantee you, because she's not done with the sport by any means. You're going to see her for a long, long time."

Despite falling short of a national championship in what was Alabama's second trip to the WCWS in Fouts' five-year career that spanned COVID-shortened 2020, she said that's not why she came to Tuscaloosa to play softball in the first place.

"I've been thinking about it a lot recently," Fouts said. "I didn't start playing the game of softball just to win a national championship. I started playing because I love it. I love the game.

"I love the struggle that it brings me sometimes. I love, like Murph has taught me, to be an overcomer. I love that. I love that about our team. I love the memories. I love my teammates. I love that it's brought me a family."

Fouts' career numbers for the Tide are nothing short of staggering. She posted a career record of 100 wins against 32 losses and threw in 14 saves she earned in relief for good measure. She tossed 35 shutouts- and five no-hitters. She threw 852.1 innings and struck out 1,178 opposing batters.

She amassed a list of accolades and awards miles long, including 2021 NFCA Pitcher of the Year and SEC Co-Pitcher of the Year, as well as becoming a four-time first team All-SEC selection.

Already a celebrity with a massive following on social media and everywhere she goes, Fouts finished her career in a heroic fashion that only grew her legend despite the narrow defeat in her final appearance. She suffered a hyperextended left knee in the SEC Tournament that threw her availability for the NCAA Tournament into question, and yet she returned to pitch in all three of Bama's Super Regional games vs. Northwestern, earning two wins in relief after suffering a loss as a starter in Game One of the best-of-three series.

"She has just been, number one, like she said, she just loves the game. She does. She absolutely loves all of it," Murphy said. "I've read this thing about giving all the feelings -- give me anger, upset, happy, sad, all the feelings. That's what she wants in softball. Give her the heartache. Give her the triumph. She's been like that from Day One. She has the most competitive spirit I've seen in a pitcher that wears the 'A.' I mean, she's come through time and time again."

Murphy credited not just Fouts, but all of his seniors for helping Alabama forge a memorable season. Part of that came about because Fouts not only was an outstanding pitcher, but a rare and compelling leader for the entire team.

"I am going to miss all of our seniors tremendously," Murphy said. "I always say you must have the bigger picture in mind in athletics because there's only one team, one team of 307 that gets to raise the trophy. What do the other 306 hold their hats on? There has to be something else, right? It's the love for their teammates, the love for their coaches, the love for their staff, the love for the game.

"You're playing for something so much bigger than yourself when you play for Alabama. They're now going to be friends for life of mine, whether they like it or not. Any time, anyplace you need me, they can call me."

He said simply reaching the WCWS was an honor and a manifestation of a goal the team established prior to the season.

"It's getting harder and harder to coach like kind of the way I want to. This team allowed me to do it again," Murphy said. "I told them at the beginning of the year, 'We're going to take the seniors on a magic carpet ride and everybody is going to do it for 'em. We're going to end up here (at the WCWS). It's a magic carpet ride for the senior class.' 

"But they gave me the magic carpet ride this year. Because they bought in. They paid attention to the little things, to the details. They were great teammates. They were coachable. They showed grit. I mean, you just don't get that very often nowadays. You don't get role models, you know? Role models for other kids. They are. That's what's so cool about it."

As for Fouts, Murphy added: "She can talk to an 80-year-old as easily as an eight-year-old. Not many kids can do that. Not many teenagers, not many college kids, not many adults can do that. She can. She makes everybody feel special. She takes her time with everybody."

Fouts said that while the wins were nice, it has been the relationships she established with coaches, teammates and fans over the last five years that she will cherish the most.

"These people are my everything. They really are," said Fouts, holding back tears. "I couldn't have asked for a better place to spend my dream. This has always been my dream.

"I will have people for the rest of my life. ... I don't know if I'll ever have the words for what this place, Murph, and the coaches, and these teammates mean to me."

Nonetheless, as the curtain fell on Alabama's season and her own collegiate career, she did find the words.

"I feel like faith is us. We have that. We are who we are because we have that. I've been blessed beyond measures, not just opportunities or wins or anything like that," Fouts said. "I've been blessed with the people. I have faith because these people make me have faith. They show me that there is a bigger picture and there are things outside of life than softball. I'll never stop having faith and trust.

"... We are a lot of things. I feel like we're goofy, very faithful. We are resilient. We all have grit. But to me this team is love. That's what I'm going to remember the most. That's what we're going to have 50 years from now."