AUSTIN, Texas - The University of Southern Mississippi softball team opened up the first day of the Texas Invitational with a two-game split. The Golden Eagles opened up the tournament with a five-inning 9-0 run-rule victory over Texas Southern and dropped a 10-2 decision to tournament-host Texas in the nightcap at Red and Charline McCombs Field in Austin, Texas.
Offensively, the Golden Eagles tallied nine hits on the day, including six extra base hits. Sarah Evans, Meaghen Nelson and Katie Cleary each had two hits on the day. Evans had a double, two RBI and two runs scored, while Nelson posted a pair of doubles. Cleary added a double. Samantha Robles led all Golden Eagles with three RBI on the day; while Morgan McKeever tied Evans with a team-best two runs scored. Selena Estrada and Robles each belted home runs on the day. For Estrada, the homer was the second of the season, while Robles' home run was the first of her career.
In the circle in game one, Shelbee Rodgers posted her second consecutive shutout. The junior worked 5.0 innings, surrendering just a pair of hits. She did not walk a batter and struck out six Lady Tigers. Rodgers posted three 1-2-3 innings in the game and because of a double play, Rodgers faced just one batter over the minimum.
Southern Miss used a trio of pitchers in the nightcap. Robles earned the start and went 2.0 innings. She scattered nine hits allowing six runs with three strikeouts and no walks. Robles was relieved by Danielle Block who worked 2.0 innings allowing two runs on three hits. She posted a walk and a strikeout. The final pitcher of the day was Kaitlin Wilson. The sophomore tossed 0.2 innings allowing two runs on three hits and a walk.
Game 1 Recap
Southern Miss increased its winning streak to three games with its third consecutive run-rule shutout, opening the Texas Invitational with a 9-0 victory over Texas Southern in five innings.
The Golden Eagles were the first team to score, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. With one out, McKeever drew a walk. Mackenzie Sher reached on a fielding error by the Lady Tigers. On the play, McKeever and Sher were both able to advance into scoring position. Cleary singled home McKeever with a base hit to left center field. With two outs and runners on the corners, Arielle Pollock reached on a fielder's choice. On the play, Texas Southern attempted to retire the lead runner. The throw was off the mark, allowing the second run to score.
Southern Miss put the game out of reach in the top of the fourth inning. The Golden Eagles scored seven runs on five hits, including a pair of home runs. Pollock led off the inning with a single up the middle. She came around to score on an Evans double to right center field. Nelson followed with a RBI double to left center field. Mikayla Davis entered the game to pinch run for Nelson. With Davis on second base and one out, Estrada pinch hit for Rodgers. Estrada sent a ball over the left field fence for her second collegiate home run, extending the Southern Miss lead to 6-0. Following a pitching change, McKeever continued the inning with a four-pitch walk. Sher reached on a fielding error as the TSU left fielder dropped a fly ball, leaving the Golden Eagles with runners on second and third. Tori Rouse entered the game to run for Sher at second base. With two outs and runners on second and third, Robles turned on a pitch, sending it over the left center field wall. The home run was the first of Robles' career and extended the advantage to 9-0.
Rodgers kept the Lady Tigers off of the scoreboard, thwarting any potential comeback attempt.
Game 2 Recap
Game two against Texas did not go Southern Miss' way.
Neither team was able to score a run in the first inning. The Longhorns were the first to plate a run, scoring in the bottom of the second inning. The leadoff batter singled through the left side of the infield to start the inning for UT. Following a strikeout, the runner stole second base and moved to third on a throwing error by the Golden Eagles. With two outs, Texas grabbed the lead with a RBI single up the middle. The next batter doubled to put the home team in front 2-0 with two outs in the inning. A RBI single pushed the advantage to 3-0 and a strikeout ended the inning.
Texas was able to increase its lead to 6-0 in the bottom of the third inning. Back-to-back singles started the inning for the Longhorns. The two runners executed a double steal to move into scoring position. A bunt single loaded the bases for the home team with no outs. On the play, the lead runner was able to score on a fielding error by the Golden Eagles. The Longhorns loaded the bases for a second time on a bunt single. After a pitching change, a walk plated the second run of the inning. The final run of the inning came on a sacrifice fly. Southern Miss was able to get a groundout and a pop up to end the inning down 6-0.
The Longhorns plated two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. In almost a repeat of the third inning, Texas used back-to-back singles and a double steal to place runners on second and third with no outs. A fielding error allowed the first run to score. Texas drove home the second run of the inning with a RBI double to right center field. Southern Miss escaped further damage with a line out, a pop up and a strikeout.
Potentially down to their final three outs, the Golden Eagles mounted a rally. Block reached on a fielding error to start the inning. Rachel Johnson entered the game to run for Block and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Evans singled up the middle to score Johnson from second. On the play, Evans moved up to second on the throw home and proceeded to third on a fielding error by the Longhorn catcher. The hit broke up a no-hit bid by Texas pitcher Tiarra Davis. Estrada was hit by a pitch to keep the inning going for USM. Pollock, who was the flex player for Southern Miss, entered to run for Estrada. She stole second to move into scoring position. Stringer reached on a fielding error that allowed Evans to score from third. Two runs would be all the Golden Eagles could score, but did force the game into the bottom of the inning.
Texas ended the game with two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Longhorns started the inning with a single. The next batter doubled to right center field, but got hung up between second and third. During the rundown, which resulted in an out, the lead runner was able to score. The next batter walked and a sacrifice fly moved both runners closer to home. Texas ended the game with a RBI single down the right field line, earning a 10-2 victory.
Southern Miss continues play in the Texas Invitational with a pair of games on Saturday. The Golden Eagles open the day with Texas Southern (10:00 a.m.) before playing a midafternoon game with ULM (3:30 p.m.). Both games will be aired on the Longhorn Network and live stats and in-game tweets (@USMSoftball) will be available.
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