Softball Completes Sweep; Earns Three Seed
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- The Southern Miss softball team posted a 6-4 victory over UTEP on Sunday afternoon to complete a three-game sweep of the Miners. It was the second three-game Conference USA sweep for the Golden Eagles this season and the first time since 2004 the Black and Gold recorded multiple C-USA sweeps in a season.
With the win and a UAB loss to North Texas, Southern Miss ties the Blazers for first place in the West Division. The Golden Eagles earned the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Conference USA Championships held in Denton, Texas.
The Golden Eagles conclude the regular season with a 28-26 overall record, marking the most wins in a season since notching 29 victories in 2006 and 2005. Southern Miss finished C-USA play 14-10 overall, registering the most conference wins in a season since 2004 -- the last time the Golden Eagles won the Conference USA regular season.
Southern Miss out-hit one of the best hitting teams in the conference. The Golden Eagles recorded 11 hits on the day with Lauren Holifield, Sarah Evans, and Rachel Johnson recording multiple hits on the day. Holifield paced the team with three hits, while Evans and R. Johnson each had a pair of hits. Evans and Tori Dew each doubled on the day. Evans led the team with two runs scored, while fellow senior Morgan McKeever led the club with three RBI on the day.
In the circle, Samantha Robles picked up her second victory of the weekend and 17th win of the year. She was relieved by Jillian Johnson who worked the final 1.1 innings to earn her first save of the season. With the win, Robles ties Melissa Cundiff (2001-02) for fifth most wins in a season, while moving into a tie for ninth with Courtney Ramos (2009-12) on the career wins list. For J. Johnson, it was her second career save, tying the sophomore for sixth in school history with Ramos and Felicia Gonzales (1999-02) in the category.
Robles worked 5.2 innings, allowing three runs -- one earned run -- on five hits with three walks and three strikeouts. All three of Robles' strikeouts ended an inning. J. Johnson allowed a run on two hits with no walks and a K.
Southern Miss was the first team to score, scratching a run in the bottom of the first inning. Holifield led off the game with a single to left center and moved to second on a fielding error by UTEP. Dew followed with a RBI double to put the home team in front 1-0.
The Golden Eagles added a run in the fourth inning. Evans doubled and advanced to third on a groundout. McKeever lifted a pitch to center field deep enough to score Evans on the sacrifice fly.
UTEP cut the lead in half with a run in the top of the fifth inning. With two out, the Miners used a walk and a double to score a run to trim the deficit to 2-1. The run was the first of the weekend for UTEP and snapped a string of 21 consecutive innings without allowing a run, a streak that dated back to last Sunday's game at Louisiana Tech.
Southern Miss responded in the fifth inning with four runs. Bailey Stokes led off the inning with a single up the middle. She was run for by Sydney Pollock who advanced to second on a R. Johnson infield single. Holifield followed with a RBI single up the middle, taking second on the throw to the plate. With one out, Cleary singled to shallow left center field to drive home another run. Evans loaded the bases with a single to straight away center field. A fielder's choice erased the lead runner, but left the bases loaded. McKeever followed with a two-RBI single up the middle through the pitcher's legs to push the lead to 6-1.
The Miners trimmed the lead with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning. With one out, UTEP placed a runner on base thanks to a fielding error. With two outs, the Miners started a rally with back-to-back hits. UTEP was aided by a fielding error that allowed the first run to score. With two on and two out, the Golden Eagles made a pitching change. A third error of the inning allowed a second run to score, but a fielder's choice ended the inning with Southern Miss up 6-3.
In the seventh, UTEP used a single to start the inning. J. Johnson retired the next batter on strikes for the first out. A double left runners on second and third for the Miners. The Golden Eagle traded a run for an out with a ground ball to second base. With a runner on third and two outs, J. Johnson induced a dribbler back to the circle for the final out of the game.
Southern Miss returns to action on Wednesday, May 11 as the Golden Eagles play in the 2016 Conference USA Championships in Denton, Texas. It is the first time since 2013 that the Black and Gold has qualified for the conference tournament. Live stats, live audio, live video, and in-game tweets (@SouthernMissSB) will be available throughout the tournament.