Feb. 23, 2013
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Sophomore shortstop Caroline Walker took a two-strike offering and singled back up the middle to give the Southern Miss Golden Eagles a split Saturday as they defeated Louisiana Tech 4-3 in walk-off fashion after falling to Northwestern State 3-2 in ten innings.
The games were part of Southern Miss' second home tournament of the season and were a practical doubleheader for the Golden Eagles (7-10).
"It was nice because in that seventh inning, all the hitters, they really stayed in the process that we've preached for the last four of five months," co-head coach Jon Malgradi said following the final game of the day. "They did a great job in pitch selection, getting into deep counts, and back into our offensive plan. That was really the first time all day we were all there and that's what good because good things happened because of it.
In the first game of the day, the Golden Eagles carried a 2-0 first-inning lead into the seventh, but the Lady Demons (10-2) rallied back to score two in the seventh before a single to left field in the 10th gave them a 3-2 victory.
Against Louisiana Tech (5-6), the game was much of the same as Southern Miss scratched across a single run in the first and held on until the top of the seventh when the Lady Techsters mounted a rally to take a 3-1 lead. Then, in the bottom of the frame, Sarah Evans got a lead-off single to allow for Mackenzie Sher's game-tying two-run homer to right field. After a ground out, Jenifer Gary and Katie Cleary both reached and advanced over on Kristen Franson's one-out sacrifice bunt. With two outs, Malgradi got to his lead-off hitter, Walker, for the final punch.
"It's kind of one of those situations you live for as an athlete," Walker said after the game. "As a hitter, you go into it with the mindset that you can either be the hero or zero. It makes me feel good that the coaches have the confidence in me (to get it done)."
Southern Miss will return to action tomorrow for the final day of the tournament. The squad will take on Louisiana Tech at 11 a.m., before resuming Friday's rained out game with Northwestern State at 1 p.m. That game will begin where it left off, with NSU carrying a 4-3 lead into the top of the second.
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Southern Miss struck first with single from Walker who advanced to third on a hit-and-run off the bat of Taylor Beck. During the next at-bat, Beck and Walker executed a perfect double steal with Walker sliding in under the tag of NSU catcher Cheyenne DelaGarza to give the Golden Eagles a 1-0 lead.
With Beck advancing all the way to third on the double-steal play, aided by an NSU error, the junior catcher came in two pitches later via a wildly thrown pitch.
Walker continued her stellar play on the defensive side of the ball, making a spectacular diving catch in foul territory in the first with the bases loaded.
Southern Miss threatened to add runs in the fifth as Madison Edwards got her first career double on a slapped ball down the left field line.
It wasn't until the bottom of the seventh that Northwestern, playing as the home team in this game, mounted their rally as a one-out fielding error by the Golden Eagles gave the Lady Demons a runner on second and a double by Brittany Virgoe on the next batter gave NSU its first run of the game.
Two walks and a single later, with the bases loaded, Cassandra Barefield tied the game up with a shot through the left side. NSU would go on to get a pair of singles, a stolen base, and a Golden Eagle fielding error in the 10th to get the 3-2 victory.
Kaitlin Wilson (2-4) suffered the loss in 3.1 innings of relief, giving up six hits and two runs (one earned) while walking two and striking out one. Beth Dietrich did not earn a decision after throwing the first 6.1 of the game, surrendering just four hits and allowing one unearned run.
Lead-off doubles from Walker and Morgan McKeever gave Southern Miss a 1-0 lead which they carried all the way into the final frame before allowing Louisiana Tech to mount a rally.
The Lady Techsters began the seventh with a double from Amanda Krueger and a bunt single from Kristen Miles to put runners on the corners. After an infield ground-out was corralled by McKeever to eliminate Krueger at the plate, an infield single, fielder's choice, and Golden Eagle error allowed runners to score from second and third to give Tech a 2-1 lead.
Meghan Knowles' single to right field pushed the lead to 3-1 and forced Southern Miss to play from behind in the final frame.
The Golden Eagles responded with Sher's fifth home run of the season, a new career-best for the slugger, to tie the game and setup the walks, sacrifice, and game-winning single that followed.
"If (Evans) doesn't get that hit before me, my home run wouldn't have meant a lot, so she really got us going," said Sher. "I was just doing my job and everyone who came up behind me kept it going. I think that everyone has confidence in everyone else on the team."