Feb. 8, 2014
TUCSON, Ariz. - The University of Southern Mississippi softball team fought hard but was unable to overcome an early deficit, dropping a 14-2 decision at Arizona in five innings at Rita Hillenbrand Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
"There is so many positives with this group," co-head coach Jon Malgradi stated after the game. "The speed that we are playing against across the board - offensively, defensively - is incredible. On the offensive side, our team is sticking to the plan, especially their plate and zone discipline. The amount of walks we have been able to garner; the hit by pitch; the amount of people we have been able to get on base today, we put ourselves in good opportunities."
Southern Miss finished the game with two runs on five hits. The Golden Eagles posted a balanced attack as five different players earned hits in the game. Sarah Evans, Rachel Johnson, Meaghen Nelson, Samantha Robles and Mackenzie Sher each recorded hits in the game. Mikayla Davis and Nelson each scored runs in contest, while Evans and Peyton Garner both drove in runs.
In the circle, the Golden Eagles used a pair of pitchers. Transfer Shelbee Rodgers and true freshman Danielle Block each saw their first action in the circle in a Southern Miss uniform. Rodgers earned the start. She worked 2.0 innings, surrendering seven hits and being charged with eight runs and walking a pair. Block entered the game in relief. The Phoenix, Ariz. native scattered nine hits in 2.0 innings while being charged with six runs (five earned). Block walked a batter, but also posted a strikeout - the first K of the season for the pitching staff.
"Arizona is a good ball club," Malgradi continued. "Based on the speed they have shown the first two games, they have a true shot of going to the World Series this year. They are going to compete really well and for our team to see that speed and still be raring to go is unbelievable. There aren't many negatives. Obviously, everyone would rather win than lose, but for this team to play against this kind of speed and be able to learn from it, we are happy."
Arizona was the first team to plate a run in the game. The leadoff batter drew a walk and advanced to second on an infield single. With runners on first and second, the Wildcats' Kellie Fox hit a three-run home run to left field, giving the home team a 3-0 advantage. Following an out, Arizona continued the inning with a bloop single to right field. The Golden Eagles responded as Rodgers induced a ground ball to Meaghen Nelson who flipped the ball to Morgan McKeever who rifled the ball to Sarah Evans to complete the 4-6-3 inning-ending double play.
The Wildcats increased their advantage in the bottom of the second inning. With one out, Arizona used a bunt single to place a runner on first base. Following a line out to center field, the runner stole second to move into scoring position. A walk placed two runners on base. Both runners advanced into scoring position on a passed ball. The Wildcats plated a run on a single to third base. Following a stolen base, Arizona used a single and a throwing error by Southern Miss to score a pair of runs. With a runner on and two outs, Chelsea Goodacre hit a two-run home run to push the lead to 8-0.
Southern Miss responded with a run in the top of the third inning. Nelson led off the inning with a single to left field. With one out, Johnson beat out a bunt single to give the Golden Eagles a pair of base runners. Southern Miss loaded the bases with two outs as Robles drew a free pass. With the bases loaded, Evans was hit by a pitch to score Nelson and give the Golden Eagles their first run of the young season.
Arizona broke the game open in the bottom of the third inning. The Wildcats scored five runs on seven hits, including a two-run home run by Hallie Wilson. In addition, UA was aided by a Southern Miss error in the inning.
The Wildcats added an insurance run in the bottom of the fourth inning. The leadoff batter singled through the right side of the infield. With one out, Arizona used a walk to place a pair of runners on base. A Texas-league single to right field scored the lead runner, but a heads up play by Southern Miss caught the batter trying for extra bases for the second out of the inning. A pop up ended the inning with Arizona leading 14-1.
In the top of the fifth, the Golden Eagles continued to battle. With two outs, Sher singled just inside the left field line. Davis entered the game as a pinch runner and quickly moved to second as Robles singled through the left side of the infield. Evans loaded the bases with a single through the right side. Garner worked the count full before drawing a RBI walk. Southern Miss was held without any other runs as Arizona used a diving catch at first base to end the inning and the game.
Southern Miss and Arizona conclude the three-game series with a single game on Sunday. First pitch is slated for 12:00 p.m. (CT - 11:00 a.m. MT). Live stats, live video and in-game tweets (@USMSoftball) will be available throughout the game.