Softball Ends Season in Semifinals of C-USA Tourney
DENTON, Texas -- Southern Miss softball posted the first winning season since 2004 and notched 30 wins for the first time since 2004, but the Golden Eagles fell a little short on the diamond, dropping a 5-1 decision to No. 2 seed UAB on Friday night at the Conference USA Championships.
Offensively, the Golden Eagles recorded three hits by three of their seniors -- Katie Cleary, Sarah Evans, and Morgan McKeever. Cleary hit a solo home run, while Evans legged out a double. Fellow senior Michelle Stringer battled off 10 pitches before drawing a walk, while Tori Dew also walked in the game.
In the circle, Samantha Robles, Jillian Johnson, and Danielle Block each pitched in the game. Robles earned the start, tossing 1.1 innings. She allowed no runs on one hit with a walk and a strikeout. Robles was relieved by J. Johnson who hurled 2.2 innings. She allowed two runs on three hits before giving way to Block. Block closed out the final 2.0 innings. She surrendered three runs on six hits with no walks and a strikeout.
Southern Miss threatened in the top of the first inning. Lauren Holifield had potential home run 14 robbed at the foul line in left field, while Katie was also robbed of a homer in right field.
The Golden Eagles did break the scoreless tie in the fourth inning. Cleary led off the inning with a solo home run to right field. She lifted a 0-1 pitch over the wall for her fourth home run of the season and the sixth of her career.
UAB answered in the bottom of the inning. The Blazers' Mary Warren led off the frame with a solo home run to left field. With two outs, UAB used a double and a hit batter to place runners on first and second. A RBI single gave the designated home team a 2-1 advantage.
The Blazers added some insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. UAB led off the inning with a single and moved the runner with a sacrifice bunt. A fly out recorded the second out, but allowed the lead runner to move to third. A single through the right side of the infield allowed the lead runner to score and a double to left field scored a second run. A third consecutive base hit scored the third and final run.
The Golden Eagles did not go quietly. McKeever led off the inning with a single. With two outs, Stringer battled until she drew a full-count walk. The game ended with a pop up, concluding the 2016 season for Southern Miss.
The Black and Gold finished the season with a 30-28 overall record, including a 14-10 mark in Conference USA play. It was the most wins and most conference wins since the 2004 season. Southern Miss, picked to finish last in the preseason poll, tied for first place in the West Division and earned the No. 3 seed in the C-USA Championships.
The win earlier in the day against Louisiana Tech gave 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).