HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The University of Southern Mississippi softball team scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to rally and win a 5-4 decision over Middle Tennessee on Sunday afternoon and win the Conference USA series 2-1. The Golden Eagles have won two C-USA series to start the season for the first time since 2006.
Offensively, the Black and Gold tallied nine hits as a team. Meaghen Nelson led the team with three hits on the day, followed by Samantha Robles and Mackenzie Sher who each added two hits apiece. One of Nelson's three hits was a triple and Sher added a solo home run on the day. Five different players scored runs in the game and four different players added RBI in a balanced team effort.
In the circle, Robles worked a complete game en route to her fourth victory of the season. The true freshman scattered 11 hits over 7.0 innings. She surrendered four runs with five strikeouts and no walks.
Middle Tennessee was the first team to score, plating two runs in the top of the first inning. The leadoff batter legged out an infield single and stole second to move into scoring position. The next batter followed with a single to leave the Blue Raiders with runners on the corners. The runner on first stole second to move 60 feet closer to home. With runners on second and third and no outs, Middle Tennessee used a two-RBI double to jump out to the early lead. The Golden Eagles' defense used a fly ball and a pair of strikeouts to end the inning down 2-0.
The Blue Raiders added a run in the top of the third inning. The leadoff batter doubled to right center field and a one-out double down the right field line pushed the score to 3-0.
The Golden Eagles chipped into the deficit with a run in the bottom of the third inning. Nelson led off the inning with a triple down the right field line. Selena Estrada followed with a RBI single up the middle trimming the Blue Raiders' lead to 3-1.
Southern Miss pulled to within one with a run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Sher started the inning with her team-leading fifth home run of the season - a solo shot to straight away left field. The home run was the 19th of the senior's career, moving her into sole possession of seventh place in the Southern Miss record book.
Middle Tennessee answered with a run in the top of the sixth inning. The leadoff batter singled to center field and advanced to third as the ball was mishandled by the Golden Eagles. The runner came around to score on a double to left field.
Trailing 4-2, the Golden Eagles mounted a rally in the bottom of the sixth inning. Sher led off the inning with a single to right field. Rachel Johnson entered the game to pinch run and moved into scoring position on a groundout to second base. Robles helped her own cause with a RBI single to right center field, scoring the speedy Johnson from second base. Freshman Tori Rouse entered the game to run for Robles. Arielle Pollock hit the ball to second base and it was fielded by Middle Tennessee. The second base man attempted to tag Rouse, but the freshman was able to avoid the tag and advance safely. Sarah Evans reached on a fielder's choice that left Rouse at third. With runners on the corners, the Golden Eagles successfully pulled off the double steal with Rouse knotting the game at 4-4. Nelson followed with a RBI single to center field, giving the home team a 5-4 advantage.
In the final inning, Robles induced a groundout to the circle to start the inning. She fanned the next batter before surrendering a base hit. The tying run was left stranded at the Golden Eagles closed out the game with a strikeout to secure the victory.
Southern Miss returns to action next weekend as it travels to Boca Raton, Fla. for a three-game conference series with Conference USA newcomer Florida Atlantic. Live stats and in-game tweets (@USMSoftball) will be available for each game.
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