May 10, 2012
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Skylar Swanson had three hits, including a two-run home run, and four RBI to lead Conference USA's regular season champion Tulsa to a 6-0 victory over Southern Miss in the opening game of the 2012 C-USA Softball Championship on Thursday at the UAB Softball Field.
"It was nice to see some of the seniors who had three seasons that were not up to their expectations come out and bring some passion back to their game (this year)," said co-head coach Jon Malgradi. "This was just another game like we've had a lot of this season where if we have a ball drop one or two ways, we make a play or two, we're right there."
Tulsa rattled the scoreboard first on Swanson's single up the middle to drive in Jill Barrett from third.
Brittany Lilly got the Eagles' first hit of the day, a double to the gap in left center in the second, but the Houston, Texas native was stranded as Aimee Creger recorded a pair of strikeouts to get out of the inning.
The Golden Hurricane added another run in the second as Caitlin Everett brought in Jessica Stoelke from third who had advanced following a single and a Golden Eagle double-play.
Swanson doubled the Tulsa lead, pushing it to 4-0, in the fifth with a two-run homer to left field, her ninth of the season. Another roundtripper, this time in the sixth off the bat of Julie Kernen, made it a 5-0 lead for the Hurricane. Swanson added her fourth RBI of the day two batters later with a sacrifice fly to make it 6-0.
In the seventh, the Golden Eagles got a pair of lead-off base runners in Carissa Turang and Stephanie Shiflet, but a pair of flyouts and a strikeout ended the threat.
Beth Dietrich (7-16) suffered the loss on two innings of work - after pitching through the Tulsa lineup once - while allowing two runs on four hits. Senior Courtney Ramos pitched the final four innings for the Golden Eagles, surrendering four runs and nine hits while each pitcher struck out one batter. Tulsa's Creger (18-5) earned the complete game shutout victory after allowing five hits and striking out eight.
With the loss in Birmingham, the 2012 season comes to a close for the Golden Eagles who will see six seniors graduate before reloading for the fall with 12 newcomers.
"In the offseason, we'll hit the road and recruit, recruit, recruit," said co-head coach Kirsten Voak. "We'll continue to make improvements out at the Complex and expect big things from our incoming players"
Malgradi added that the staff would evaluate the returners and will look to continue to build their program.
"Starting in August, when we begin practice, it's going to be an entirely new environment, feel and approach" said Malgradi. "And these kids this year, they started that movement. They helped to get that ball rolling to take a big leap forward next year."