Softball Splits With UTEP to Open Conference USA Play
Southern Miss opened up Conference USA play with a doubleheader split on the road at UTEP.
EL PASO, Texas - The University of Southern Mississippi softball team rallied from down 6-1 in the second game of the doubleheader to post an 8-6 victory over UTEP en route to a split to open the 2014 Conference USA season. The Miners claimed a 5-1 win in the first game at Helen of Troy Field.
As a team, the Golden Eagles batted .218 on the day. Taylor Beck, Katie Cleary and Arielle Pollock each finished the day with two hits apiece. Cleary notched the only extra-base hit of the day, doubling in the second game. Selena Estrada, Morgan McKeever and Pollock paced the team with two RBI on the day, while Meaghen Nelson led the team with three runs scored.
In the circle, the duo of Samantha Robles and Shelbee Rodgers combined for a team earned run average of 3.23. Rodgers pitched the first game, tossing 6.0 innings allowing five runs (three earned runs) on 11 hits. She walked one batter and struck out six. In the nightcap, Robles picked up her second win of the season. The true freshman worked 7.0 innings, surrendering six runs (three earned runs) on 10 hits with a walk and two Ks.
Game One Recap
Southern Miss was the first team to scratch the scoreboard in game one, plating a run in the top of the third inning. Sarah Evans drew a walk to start the inning. Nelson reached on a fielder's choice that left the Golden Eagles with a runner on first and one out. Nelson stole second base to move into scoring position. Michelle Stringer singled up the middle to put runners on the corners. McKeever singled up the middle to score Nelson and give Southern Miss a 1-0 advantage.
UTEP responded with a pair of runs in bottom of the fourth inning. With one runner on, the Miners' Kayla Black hit a two-run home run down the left field line to put the hosts in front 2-1.
The Miners added to their lead with a run in the bottom of the fifth and two runs in the bottom of the sixth. In the fifth, UTEP used a one out triple and a RBI double to increase its lead. In the sixth, the Miners were able to secure the win with two runs on three hits and a Southern Miss error, providing the final margin of victory at 5-1.
Game Two Recap
Game two saw the Golden Eagles jump out to an early 1-0 lead, scratching the scoreboard in the top of the first inning. With one out, McKeever drew a four-pitch walk. Mackenzie Sher followed with a single to right field. The two runners advanced on a groundout and the Golden Eagles loaded the bases as Robles walked. Pollock drove home the first run of the game for the Black and Gold with an infield single to short.
The Miners responded with a four-run second inning. With one out, UTEP's Alanna Leasau tied the game with a solo home run to right center field. With two outs, the home team took advantage of a fielding error by the Golden Eagles. A second error in the inning plated a run and left the hosts with a runner on second base. The next batter singled and was able to advance to second as USM threw to third to try to eliminate the lead runner. UTEP used a two-RBI double to take a 4-1 lead after two innings.
UTEP increased its lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Miners managed to sandwich a base hit in between a pair of strikeouts. The base runner stole second to move into scoring position. The next batter followed with a RBI single and moved into scoring position on the throw to the plate. UTEP pushed the advantage to 6-1 with a RBI single through the left side of the infield.
Southern Miss chipped into the UTEP lead with a run in the top of the fifth. Nelson led off the inning with a walk and stole second to move into scoring position. Nelson came around to score on a throwing error by the Miners.
Trailing 6-2, the Golden Eagles knotted the score with a four-run sixth inning. Pollock led off the inning with an infield single to third base. She advanced to second on a throwing error by the Miners. Sarah Evans followed with a single through the left side of the infield, leaving the Black and Gold with runners at the corners. Freshman Mikayla Davis entered the game to run for Evans at first base. Davis moved to second on a wild pitch that allowed Pollock to score from third. After a pitching change, Nelson drew a walk and Beck loaded the bases with a single to shallow center field. Estrada pinch hit for Rodgers and Rachel Johnson pinch ran for Beck. Estrada came through with a two-RBI single, scoring Davis and Nelson. McKeever tied the score with a sacrifice fly to center field, allowing Johnson to score.
The Black and Gold took the lead in the top of the seventh inning. Cleary led off the inning with her team-leading 10th double of the season. Robles singled to left field, advancing Cleary to third. Pollock reached on a fielder's choice that saw all runners advance safely and allowed Cleary to score from third. Freshman Bragan Burns pinch ran at second for Robles. Burns and Pollock moved 60 feet closer to home on a groundout. Nelson reached on a fielder's choice that left the bases loaded. Beck drove home Burns with a RBI single to right field.
Leading 8-6, the Golden Eagle defense was able to sit down the Miners and close out the game for the come-from-behind victory.
Southern Miss and UTEP conclude the three-game Conference USA series with a single game on Sunday afternoon. Live stats and in-game tweets (@USMSoftball) will be available for the game.