April 21, 2013
ORLANDO - A pair of solo home runs from two Southern Miss newcomers were the difference on Sunday as Southern Miss defeated Conference USA rival UCF (26-24, 7-14 C-USA), 3-2, from the UCF Softball Complex.
"We talked for a while last night about getting back to our process and doing all the little things right," said co-head coach Jon Malgradi. "And, even though we had some untimely errors, we were patient at the plate and got great pitching today."
With the win, Southern Miss (12-37, 2-15 C-USA) puts themselves into the eighth place spot in the C-USA standings with two weekends remaining.
In the first, Mackenzie Sher drew a lead-off walk, the first time in her career she has appeared in that spot, and moved over on a passed ball. After two Mackenzie Audas strikeouts, Morgan McKeever flew out to center field on a full count but was awarded first base due to an illegal pitch called on Audas.
With runners on the corners, freshman Katie Cleary made the most of the extended inning and ripped a first-pitch single back up the middle to knock in Sher and give Southern Miss their first lead of the series, 1-0.
Mariah Garcia got the Knights on the board in their half of the inning on an RBI grounder to the left side which lived long enough to plate the speedy Maddy Schroeder from third.
Southern Miss got a pair of singles in the third from Sarah Evans and Danielle LaPointe and threatened to re-take the lead, but after a circle visit from UCF assistant Ruben Felix, Audas settled back into a groove to record a pop up and fly out to shallow left to end the inning.
The opportunity did not slip away again in the fourth as junior Taylor Beck took Audas' 3-1 offering screaming down the left field line, slipping it just over the outfield wall for her third roundtripper of the year to put the Golden Eagles back on top 2-1. Two batters later, freshman Jen Gary belted a homer of her own in nearly the same spot to make it 3-1.
It was the first time the Golden Eagles had hit multiple home runs in the same inning since they did it against Mississippi State on April 6, 2011.
UCF did not go quietly, however, and answered back in the sixth inning with a two-out single from Schroeder up the middle. With runners on first and second, and a Golden Eagle fielding error, the Knights made it a 3-2 ball game.
But, it was the Eagles' day in the end as they held on to pick up the 3-2 victory after surrendering an error in the seventh but playing flawless defense the rest of the way, erasing lead runners and fielding the routine ground balls.
Senior Beth Dietrich (2-14) picked up the win and continued her hot pitching streak, recording the complete game victory on six hits and two runs (one earned) while striking out two and walking four. Audas (12-16) took the loss on 3.1 innings of work with five hits, three runs (two earned) while striking out six and walking two.
Southern Miss is back on the diamond next weekend to close out their regular season home slate when they entertain C-USA rival East Carolina in a three-game set. Saturday's doubleheader will begin at 1 p.m.
To get the most up-to-date information on Southern Miss Softball, follow the team on Twitter at @USMSoftball, get live stats via the Gametracker platform from SouthernMiss.com, or like Southern Miss Softball on Facebook.