HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The University of Southern Mississippi softball team earned a pair of victories in a doubleheader sweep of Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Wednesday night at the Southern Miss Softball Complex. The Golden Eagles earned a 4-1 victory in the opening game, before posting a 13-5 run-rule win in game two over the Golden Lions.
The Black and Gold improved to 16-16 overall, notching the most wins since the Golden Eagles had 17 wins in 2011. Southern Miss has a .500 or better record 32 games into the season for the first time since 2005 when the Golden Eagles started the season 17-15.
Offensively, the Golden Eagles tallied 23 hits in 12 innings, including seven extra base hits. Seven different players had multiple hits on the night led by Sarah Evans who notched a team-best five hits, including a double and two triples. Mackenzie Sher added two doubles and a home run and a team-best five RBI. Arielle Pollock added a double on three hits and Shelbee Rodgers scored a team-high four runs, while adding three base hits.
In the circle, a trio of pitchers combined for a pair of victories. Rodgers tossed a complete game allowing one run on four hits with a walk and six strikeouts in 7.0 innings en route to her team-leading 10th victory of the season. Rodgers became the first pitcher in the Malgradi / Voak Era with double-digit victories. In game two, Samantha Robles started the game before giving way to Danielle Block. Robles allowed two runs on three hits in 3.0 innings of work. She walked three while striking out four. Robles gave way to Block who closed out the game. The freshman allowed three runs (no earned runs) on three hits with no walks and three strikeouts in 2.0 innings of work.
Southern Miss returns to action this weekend as the Golden Eagles host Texas-San Antonio in a three-game Conference USA series. Live stats and in-game tweets (@USMSoftball) will be available throughout the games.
Game 1 Recap
In the first game, Southern Miss scored first, plating a pair of runs in the bottom of the second inning. Katie Cleary led off the inning with a single up the middle. Pollock bounced a one-out hit over the third baseman's head for a double. With runners on second and third, Evans singled up the middle, scoring Cleary and Pollock and giving the Golden Eagles a 2-0 advantage.
The Black and Gold added a run in the bottom of the third inning. Rodgers led off the inning with a walk and stole second base to move into scoring position. Sher drove home Rodgers with a RBI double down the right field line, extending the lead to 3-0.
The Golden Eagles notched another run in the bottom of the fourth inning. Evans tripled down the right field line - her second triple of the game, tying school record for the second time this season. On the play, Evans managed to score, advancing home on the throw from right field and pushing the score to 4-0.
The Golden Lions chipped into the lead with a run in the top of the sixth inning. The leadoff batter doubled to right center field and advanced to third on a groundout. The next batter singled to score the runner. The Golden Eagles ended the inning with a fielder's choice and a foul out to right field.
Southern Miss was able to thwart any comeback attempt, keeping Arkansas-Pine Bluff off of the scoreboard in the final inning of play.
Game 2 Recap
In game two, UAPB jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. The leadoff batter walked and was erased on a fielder's choice. With one on and one out, UAPB's Paige Garcia hit a two-run home run over the left field walk and put the visitors in front early.
Southern Miss responded in the bottom of the first inning. Rodgers beat out an infield single to third base. She moved to second on a wild pitch. Morgan McKeever walked to put a pair of runners on base. Sher followed with a three-run blast to left field to put the Golden Eagles in front 3-2. The home run was Sher's sixth of the season and the 20th of her career. Twenty home runs ties Sher with Ashley Brenan (2003-06) for sixth all-time in the USM record books.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Golden Eagles extended their lead with four runs on four hits and a Golden Lion error. With one out, Taylor Beck reached on a fielding error by the UAPB first baseman. Rodgers followed with a single to third base. Beck and Rodgers moved up one base on a wild pitch. With two runners in scoring position, McKeever singled through the right side, scoring Beck from second base. She moved to second on the throw, leaving the Black and Gold with two runners in scoring position. Sher walked to load the bases and Cleary followed with a RBI single to left field to score Rodgers. With two outs, Pollock plated two runs with a base hit to right center field, extending the USM lead to 7-2.
Southern Miss added a run in the bottom of the fourth inning. With one out, Block singled through the right side of the infield - her first collegiate hit. She came around to score as Evans doubled to left field.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff closed the gap in the top of the fifth inning. With one out, UAPB placed a runner on first base with a single up the middle. Block struck out the next batter, but a fielding error placed a second runner on base with two outs. Garcia homered for the second time in the game to close the margin to 8-5.
The Golden Eagles closed out the run-rule victory with five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Selena Estrada started the inning with a single up the middle. She advanced to second as Beck followed with a single through the left side of the infield. Rachel Johnson pinch ran for Beck at first base. Johnson and Estrada each advanced a base as Rodgers walked. With the bases loaded, McKeever delivered a two-RBI single up the middle. She moved to second on the throw in from the outfield. Sher flied out to left field, scoring Rodgers on the sacrifice fly. With two outs, Block singled through the right side of the infield to drive home McKeever. Pollock gave the Golden Eagles a pair of base runners with a single down the left field line. With two on and two outs, Evans ended the game with a RBI single to center field, scoring Block and giving Southern Miss a 13-5 run-rule victory.
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