HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The University of Southern Mississippi softball team used a dominant pitching performance and timely hitting to post a 5-4 come-from-behind victory over Detroit in the series opener on Friday night at the Southern Miss Softball Complex.
In the circle, junior Shelbee Rodgers notched a career-high 14 strikeouts en route to her first victory of the season. The transfer had at least one strikeout in every inning and struck out the side twice. She posted a pair of 1-2-3 innings on the night. Rodgers scattered seven hits over 7.0 innings of work, allowing four runs and walking three.
Offensively, Southern Miss recorded 12 hits on the night, marking its first double-digit hit performance of the season. Rodgers helped out her own cause, notching a team-best three hits on the night. Morgan McKeever and Michelle Stringer each added a pair of hits on the night, while McKeever scored a team-high two runs. Rodgers, McKeever, Stringer, Samantha Robles and Katie Cleary each drove in runs on the night. McKeever finished the game with two doubles, while senior Mackenzie Sher added a double.
"First and foremost, we ask our pitchers to give us an opportunity to win," co-head coach Jon Malgradi said after the game. "Shelbee Rodgers really did. You take one pitch away and the whole dynamic of the game is completely different. She was lights out for us; 14 strikeouts; 7 hits; and only one swing was damaging. Other than that, offensively, we are creating a lot of opportunities. We are getting better at capitalizing on them. We had a couple of key hits that in the last two weeks we didn't have. It was a good all-around win. Good defense. Good pitching. Good hitting. It was a good start to a weekend."
Southern Miss was the first team to scratch the scoreboard, plating a run in the bottom of the first inning. After starting the game with three strikeouts in the top of the first inning, Rodgers started the offense with a single to first base. Detroit was able to record the first out on a caught stealing. McKeever followed with a double to left center field. Sher continued the inning with a walk. With two runners on and two outs, Cleary singled up the middle to score McKeever and put the Golden Eagles in front 1-0 after one inning.
The Golden Eagles increased their lead with a run in the bottom of the second inning. With one out, Sarah Evans singled down the left field line. Evans advanced to second on a throwing error and stole third to move into scoring position. Rodgers followed with a single to left field, scoring Evans from third, putting USM in front 2-0.
Detroit rallied to take the lead in the top of the fourth inning. The Titans led off the inning with a single up the middle. After a strikeout, the runner stole second to move into scoring position. Detroit used a RBI single to cut the Southern Miss lead in half. The inning continued with a walk and with two runners on pinch hitter Karyn McCarty gave the visitors a 4-2 lead with one swing. McCarty hit a three-run home run to left center field for her first home run of the season.
Southern Miss chipped into the Detroit advantage with a run in the bottom of the fifth inning. Sher led off the inning with a double and she was pinch run for by Mikayla Davis. Davis advanced to third on a groundout. With two outs, Stringer delivered a RBI single to right center field to trim the deficit to 4-3.
After a 1-2-3 inning with Rodgers striking out the side, the Golden Eagles regained the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. With one out, Rodgers singled up the middle. McKeever doubled to right center field, scoring Rodgers and tying the game at 4-4. McKeever advanced to third on a wild pitch. With two outs, Robles lifted a 2-2 pitch into right center field. McKeever scored easily on the hit, putting Southern Miss in front 5-4.
Rodgers was able to close the door on any potential comeback attempt, striking out two batters and inducing a game-ending line out with the potential tying run on third.
The series continues on Saturday as Southern Miss and Detroit play a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon. First pitch is slated for 12:00 p.m. (Noon). Live stats, live video and in-game tweets (@USMSoftball) will be available throughout the weekend.
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