HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The University of Southern Mississippi softball team split a doubleheader against Middle Tennessee on Saturday afternoon at the Southern Miss Softball Complex. The Golden Eagles opened the series with a 9-2 victory, but dropped a 6-3 decision in 11 innings in the nightcap.
Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee will conclude the series with the rubber match on Sunday afternoon. First pitch is slated for 1:00 p.m. Live stats and in-game tweets (@USMSoftball) will be available throughout the game. The Kid's Clinic scheduled for after the game has been postponed until further notice due to predicted weather.
Offensively, the Golden Eagles tallied 21 hits in the two games, including four doubles and a home run. Ten different batters finished the day with at least one hit with seven batters notching multiple hits. Katie Cleary led the way with five hits on the afternoon, finishing the day 5-for-9 (.556) with three runs and a run batted in. Selena Estrada finished the day with three hits, including a double, a home run and a team-high four RBI. Meaghen Nelson, Mackenzie Sher and Michelle Stringer each added doubles on the day.
In the circle, Shelbee Rodgers and Samantha Robles combined to toss 18.0 innings on the day. The duo notched 16 combined strikeouts while walking just five. In the first game, Rodgers tossed 7.0 innings, scattering seven hits and allowing two runs. She struck out six without allowing a walk. Game two saw Robles start in the circle. The freshman worked 4.0 innings en route to a no decision. Robles surrendered a pair of runs on five hits, striking out four and walking none. She gave way to Rodgers in the fifth inning. Rodgers worked the final 7.0 innings, scattering 11 hits and allowing four runs. The junior struck out six batters and was charged with five walks.
Game 1 Recap
In the first game, Southern Miss jumped out to an early lead, plating three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Cleary and Estrada started off the inning with back-to-back singles through the left side of the infield. Arielle Pollock laid down a bunt single to load the bases for the Golden Eagles. Rachel Johnson entered the game to run at second base. With two outs, Stringer doubled over the right fielder's head, scoring Cleary, Johnson and Pollock and giving Southern Miss a 3-0 advantage.
Middle Tennessee scored a run in the top of the third inning to chip into the Southern Miss advantage. The Blue Raiders used back-to-back singles to place two runners on base. The next batter reached on a fielder's choice that saw the lead runner eliminated. The two runners moved up one base on a ground out to short. Middle Tennessee used a single through the right side of the infield to score the lead runner. The run snapped a streak of 18 consecutive innings without allowing a run by the Golden Eagles. The 18 consecutive innings, tied for a season long.
The Golden Eagles responded with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Pollock led off the inning with a single to left center field. Sarah Evans reached base on a fielder's choice. On the play, Pollock was able reach second base safely thanks to a fielding error by Middle Tennessee. Nelson reached on a fielder's choice, leaving runners on first and second. Stringer loaded the bases with a five-pitch walk. Robles delivered a pinch-hit single to left field, scoring Evans and increasing the lead to 4-1.
The Blue Raiders plated a run in the top of the fifth inning. With one out, Middle Tennessee put two runners on with back-to-back singles. MT used a third single to score the lead runner and cut the Black and Gold's lead in half at 4-2. The Golden Eagles used a double play to end the inning and limit the damage to one run.
Southern Miss broke the game open with five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Evans started the inning with a single down the left field line and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Nelson followed with a RBI single up the middle. She moved to second on the throw to the plate. Stringer was hit by a pitch to give the home team a pair of base runners. Rodgers reached on a fielder's choice and the runners moved one base on a groundout. With runners on second and third, Sher doubled down the left field line to increase the lead by two. Cleary continued the inning with a single through the right side of the infield. With runners on the corners, Estrada doubled to center field, scoring Sher and Cleary and providing the final margin of victory at 9-2.
Game 2 Recap
The second game saw the visitors jump out to an early lead. Middle Tennessee scratched the scoreboard with a pair of runs in the top of the first inning. With two outs, the Blue Raiders used a single and a RBI double to take the early lead. On the play, the batter was able to move up to third base on the throw to the plate. The next batter singled just inside the right field line to push the score to 2-0. Robles ended the inning with a strikeout, leaving the score 2-0 heading into the bottom of the first inning.
Southern Miss chipped into the lead with a run in the bottom of the first inning. Rodgers started the inning reaching second base on a throwing error by the Blue Raiders' shortstop. Rodgers moved 60 feet closer to home on a groundout. With two outs, Cleary plated Rodgers with a single to left field.
The score remained 2-1 until the bottom of the fourth inning. Cleary singled to left field to start the inning. She came around to score as Estrada belted a two-run home run to left field, giving the Black and Gold a 3-2 lead.
The Blue Raiders responded in the top of the fifth inning. With two outs and the bases empty, MT's Kayla Toney hit a solo home run to right center field to knot the score at 3-3.
The score remained 3-3 until the 11th inning. Both teams missed opportunities to take the lead, forcing 11 innings. In the top of the 11th, Middle Tennessee used a two-out single to place a runner on base. The next batter followed with a RBI double to break the deadlock. Austyn Whaley hit a two-run home run down the left field line that just stayed fair to increase the lead to 6-3. Southern Miss was unable to answer in the bottom half of the inning, dropping the second game.
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