Softball Walks Off in Extras; Advances in Tournament
DENTON, Texas -- The Southern Miss softball team needed extra innings, but recorded a 5-4 victory over Louisiana Tech in the ninth inning to advance in the 2016 Conference USA Championships. The Golden Eagles will play the loser of Florida Atlantic and UAB at 5:00 p.m.
Tied at 4-4, the Golden Eagles loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth inning with a double by Katie Cleary, a single by Sarah Evans, and an intentional walk to Morgan McKeever. Kaelyn Christofferson lifted a pitch over in shallow left field. The Louisiana Tech left fielder saw the ball go in and out of her glove, allowing Cleary to score from third and give the designated home team the walk-off win.
The win gives Southern Miss 30 victories on the season, marking just the fifth time in program history the team has amassed 30 or more victories. The Golden Eagles posted 63 in 2000 (advanced to College World Series), 52 in 1999 (advanced to World Series), 45 in 2001 (won Conference USA Tournament), and 33 in 2004 (won C-USA Regular Season).
Offensively, the Black and Gold recorded 12 hits on the day, including multiple hits by Cleary and Evans. Cleary finished the day 4-for-5 with a double and two runs scored, while Evans went 3-for-5 on the day. Selena Estrada also doubled in the game, driving in the first run of the day for the Golden Eagles with a pinch-hit two-bagger.
In the circle, Danielle Block, Jillian Johnson, and Samantha Robles each saw action in the game. Block earned the start, but only tossed 0.1 innings allowing three runs on two hits with a walk. She was relieved by Jillian Johnson. The sophomore worked 4.2 innings allowing a run on three hits with a walk and a season-high three strikeouts. Samantha Robles tossed the final 4.0 innings. The Texas City, Texas native allowed no runs on two hits and two walks with a pair of strikeouts. Robles was credited with the win -- her team-leading 19th of the season.
Southern Miss returns to action this afternoon as the Golden Eagles will play the loser of the Florida Atlantic / UAB game. Game time is slated for 5:00 p.m. at Lovelace Stadium in Denton, Texas. Live stats, live audio, live video, and in-game tweets (@SouthernMissSB) will be available throughout the game.
Louisiana Tech jumped out to an early three run lead. The game started with a leadoff walk and the Lady Techsters placed a pair of runners on base with a single through the left side of the infield. LA Tech's Morgan Turkoly put the designated visiting team in front with one swing, hitting a three-run home run to right field. After a pitching change, the Golden Eagles ended the inning with a strikeout and a groundout.
The score remained 3-0 until the fourth inning. The Lady Techsters' leadoff batter was hit by a pitch and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. LA Tech used a wild pitch to move the runner to within 60 feet of home. Louisiana Tech pulled off a suicide squeeze to score the run from third and push its advantage to 4-0.
Southern Miss chipped into the lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. With two outs, Samantha Papp stepped in to pinch hit. The true freshman singled to right field. Estrada delivered a pinch-hit double to right center field to score Papp and put the Golden Eagles on the scoreboard.
In the sixth inning, the Golden Eagles knotted the score with three runs on three hits and a Lady Techster error. Tori Dew was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Sydney Pollock entered at first base to run for Dew. Cleary followed with a single to left center field. Evans loaded the bases with a single through the left side of the infield. Louisiana Tech traded a run for an out as Morgan McKeever reached on a fielder's choice leaving runners on the corners and scoring S. Pollock from third. A fielding error continued the inning, allowing Cleary to score from third. With two on, Michelle Stringer singled to load the bases. The Golden Eagles scored the tying run as Louisiana Tech went to first for an out on a soft ground ball to the pitcher.
The score remained tied at 4-4 until the ninth inning. Defensively, the Golden Eagles worked out of a bases loaded jam with no outs. In the eighth inning, Rachel Johnson robbed a home run in straight away center field to keep the game locked at four apiece.
In the bottom of the ninth, Cleary led off with a double to right field. She advanced to third as Evans singled to right. McKeever was intentionally walked to set up a force at each base. Louisiana Tech dropped a shallow fly ball to left field allowing Cleary to score from third and giving the Golden Eagles a walk-off win.