Feb. 14, 2013
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Southern Miss opens its 2013 home softball schedule on Friday as they beginning the first of two spring tournaments, hosting Jacksonville State and Sam Houston State, in the three-day event at the Southern Miss Softball Complex.
The Golden Eagles open the tournament against the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State at 6 p.m., with games for the tournament beginning at 3:30 p.m., on Friday as the two visitors square off in the first of their match ups.
Co-head coaches Jon Malgradi and Kirsten Voak opened up the season with a nine-game, seven-day road trip out west that pitted the young Golden Eagle ball club against west coast powers Cal State Fullerton and Fresno State among others. Southern Miss emerged with a pair of wins, the first wins over teams from California in 11 years.
"We knew coming into the season that, with such a young team, we were going to have to put them to the test early and really see how they responded," said Malgradi. "I told them after the second Baylor game how impressed I was with their growth and ability to rally around each other. That's exactly what we wanted to see from them on that trip. Now, it's time to get it going at home."
Over the nine-game span, Southern Miss (2-7) defeated a pair of former national champions in Fullerton and Fresno, and fell in five games by two or fewer runs. In seven games, the Golden Eagles scored first, putting the pressure on the opposition.
"To take such a young team - with as many as six freshmen starting at one time - out on a road trip like that, and to have them battle and compete in every game, as a coach, you have to be pleased," said Malgradi.
Freshman third baseman Morgan McKeever leads the team at the plate, hitting at a .310 (9 of 29) clip with a team-high four RBI while her nine hits are tops in the league. As a team, the Golden Eagles lead Conference USA in doubles (14) and hits (45) while their 2.88 team ERA is third-best in the league.
JSU carries a 2-2 record into Hattiesburg with wins over Louisiana Tech and Southern University. At the plate for the Gamecocks, Kalee Tabor is hitting at a .545 (6 of 11) clip with seven RBI to lead her team. In the circle, JSU has allowed just ten runs (eight earned) and carries a 2.33 ERA.
Sam Houston State comes to Hattiesburg after a familiar stop to the Golden Eagles, a weekend tournament in Waco - where the Golden Eagles dropped a pair of games to Baylor on Tuesday.
The Bearkats (2-4) defeated the Lady Bears 2-0 in extra innings in their tournament and also snagged a win from Illinois State in their season opener. Tori Benavidez (.350) leads the team at the plate while four pitchers have combined to give SHSU a 5.49 team ERA, giving up 25 runs (14 earned).
Tickets for the tournament $20 for all-tournament chairback passes, $15 and $10 for adults and youth general admission, respectively. Day passes and single game tickets are $8 for chairbacks, $6 and $4 for adult and youth general admission, respectively.
Fans who would like to follow the Golden Eagles from out of town can do so on Twitter by following @USMSoftball, via the Gametracker platform from SouthernMiss.com, or by liking the Southern Miss Softball page on Facebook.