TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The top-ranked Alabama softball team claimed its 12th straight tournament title when it won the Easton Bama Bash Presented Drash on Sunday at Rhoads Stadium. The Crimson Tide downed the Winthrop Eagles, 6-1, to finish 5-0 at the tournament and improve to 16-0 on the season.
Tied at one for five innings, Alabama used a five-run sixth inning to secure the win. Sophomore Danae Hays broke the tie with a two-run bloop single to left that scored junior Kaila Hunt and senior Kayla Braud.
Sophomore Danielle Richard then broke the game open with her first home run on the season. The Priceville, Ala., native cleared the wall down the left field line for a three-run shot to give the Tide its eventual 6-1 win.
Junior Lauren Sewell went the distance to improve to 3-0 on the season. The right-hander allowed one unearned on two hits while striking out five.
Hunt got things going for the Tide in the first inning when she crushed a two-out, full-count pitch well over the wall in left for her seventh home run of the season.
Freshman Haylie McCleney was named the tournament MVP after batting .571 with a home run and nine RBI. Junior Jackie Traina and sophomore Leslie Jury earned two wins apiece to also be named to the squad while Braud batted .400 with six stolen bases to round out the Tide honorees.
Alabama will play six games in four days next week, all at Rhoads Stadium. UA will open the week against Samford on Wednesday, Feb. 27, before playing its make-up game against South Alabama on Thursday. The Tide will then welcome Iowa State and St. John's for the Easton Classic on the weekend.
Mississippi State Sweeps Two on Sunday
SOUTHAVEN, Miss. - Senior Stephanie Becker struck out a career-high 13 and teammate Alison Owen broke her own school record with a SEC season-best 16 strikeouts as the Mississippi State softball team recorded a doubleheader sweep Sunday morning on the final day of the Blues City Classic at Greenbrook Park.
The Bulldogs picked up an 8-4 victory against Southeast Missouri State in game one, before shutting out Southern Illinois at Edwardsville by a 1-0 margin in game two. The sweep on the final day of the Memphis-hosted tournament pushed the Maroon and White to 9-4 on the season.
"Stephanie and Alison were both great today," Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. "I am proud of the way our team competed in both of today's games."
For their efforts this weekend, both pitchers were named to the Blues City Classic All-Tournament Team. Owen, who was named to the first team, went 2-0 with two complete-game shutouts, 31 strikeouts, one walk, zero runs allowed, three hits given up and a .067 opponent batting average. Becker earned second-team honors after going 1-0 in two appearances with 23 strikeouts, zero walks, a 1.24 ERA and a .195 opponent batting average.
Junior Sam Lenahan was also named to the all-tournament team after hitting at a .455 clip (5-for-11) with a .909 slugging percentage. The infielder collected four RBIs, two doubles, two walks, a home run and a run scored on the weekend.
A total of 1,469 fans, mostly dressed in maroon and white, attended the Saturday and Sunday games at the in-state Classic, where MSU finished 3-1 on the weekend.
GAME ONE RECAP
Seven different Bulldog batters drove in a run in MSU's 8-4 early morning victory against Southeast Missouri State. Junior third baseman Logan Foulks notched a season high with a perfect 3-for-3 performance at the plate, tying a season best with two runs scored. Also scoring twice was redshirt sophomore Briana Bell, who finished 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI in her first start since May 2011.
"It was 28 degrees when we arrived here to play, so kudos to Becker for stepping up and getting a career high in strikeouts," Stuedeman said.
With those 13 K's to go along with zero walks, Becker improved to 2-1 on her senior campaign. The lefty sprinkled four hits over 6.2 innings, giving up two runs (one earned) in 112 pitches. After putting two runners in scoring position with zero outs in the first, Becker did not yield a hit again until one out in the fifth. Redhawks' pitcher Lindsey Patterson fell to 1-2 after surrendering four runs on six hits and four walks in 6.0 innings of work.
"Our team played really well and we scored a lot of runs," Becker said. "Sam caught great and Coach Stuedeman called an excellent game."
Lenahan hammered an RBI double to the gap in right center in the third, which scored Foulks and put MSU on top early by a score of 1-0. State tacked on two more in the fourth with an RBI double by junior Jessica Offutt, who scored on the same play courtesy of a costly throwing error by the SEMO left fielder in an attempt to throw Offutt out at the second bag.
Junior Heidi Shape singled and Foulks walked to begin the top of the fifth frame. Following a wild pitch which moved both runners over, senior Jessica Cooley executed a perfect squeeze, scoring Foulks to make it 4-0 in favor of the Maroon and White. Foulks then tapped the dish on the RBI by Bell. Senior Shelby Fisher concluded the scoring in the fifth with an RBI single that plated Cooley.
State surrendered an unearned run in the bottom of the fifth, but gained it right back courtesy of sophomore Swayze Hollenhead's first RBI of season, which scored freshman outfielder Loryn Nichols.
The Bulldogs added one more in the top of the seventh off an RBI groundout by redshirt junior Erin Nesbit (her first of 2013), before giving up three runs in the bottom of the last inning to give the game its final score of 8-4.
GAME TWO RECAP
Less than 24 hours after breaking the single-game school record with her 15th strikeout vs. Wichita State, Owen fanned 16 SIU-E batters to break her own mark in MSU's 1-0 victory against the Cougars. The shutout was the fourth in the first 13 games for MSU this season, which shut out five opponents total in 57 games last season.
"Owen had another spectacular outing," Stuedeman explained. "She had ice water in her veins and kept working to get the win."
In addition, Owen set the school record by retiring nine-straight batters via the strikeout to start the game. The junior jumped to 5-1 in 2013 with her third-consecutive complete-game shutout as a starter. Cougars' pitcher Haley Chambers (3-2) suffered the loss for the visitors.
"Today felt awesome," Owen said. "Logan behind the dish and the rest of the defense were making plays left and right. That fired me up."
The lone run of the game came on a clutch two-out single up the middle by Lenahan in the bottom of the first, which allowed sophomore Ashley Phillips to sprint across the impeccable white pentagon.
The toughest challenge of the young season comes March 1-3, as Starkville's Team travels to Orlando, Fla., to take part in the D9 Citrus Classic. The Bulldogs will play Hofstra, Maryland, LIU-Brooklyn, Fordham and Syracuse in a 48-hour period at the internationally-known ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
For live in-game updates of MSU's games in the Magic Kindom, follow the program on Twitter at @MStateSB. For pictures from the Classic, like the team on Facebook at Facebook.com/MStateSB and visit the team's Instagram account at MStateSB. For pregame and postgame video, check out MSU's official YouTube channel at YouTube.com/HailState.
"The team is really excited to go down to Orlando and play some great opponents in some great weather," Stuedeman explained. "The tournament prepares us for conference play the following week. We have five quality opponents and we'll have to show up for every pitch."
LSU Falls to UCLA
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - The No. 11 LSU softball team had its 10-game winning streak come to a close and was handed a 2-0 defeat by No. 16 UCLA Sunday on the final day of the Mary Nutter Classic held at the Big League Dreams Complex.
The Tigers (14-2) were shutout for the first time on the season despite holding a 7-3 advantage over UCLA (12-1) in the hits department. From the bottom of the order, Rikki Alcaraz and Simone Heyward turned in 2-for-3 performances.
The 10-game winning streak for LSU was the second-longest in the Beth Torina era after the Tigers pieced together a 12-game run from March 16-April 4 last season.
Rachele Fico was dealt the tough-luck loss and dropped to 9-1 on the season. Pitching for the fourth consecutive day, Fico limited the high-octane Bruins to a pair of runs on three hits. The senior right-hander totaled nine strikeouts, four walks and two hit batters.
"They were able to get a couple of breaks, and we didn't throughout the game," Torina said. "For the most part, Rachele was able to get them off balanced. I think it showed that we threw her four days in a row. She was still able to strike out nine batters and is going to be the one in the circle we're going to count in throughout the season."
UCLA put two runners on to start the second inning as Alyssa Tiumalu was hit-by-a-pitch, and Mysha Sataraka doubled down the left field line. On a 2-0 offering, Brittany Moeai platted both runners on a slow-rolling RBI single that squibbed past Fico's glove and deflected over a diving Bianka Bell at shortstop.
"UCLA made the most of their opportunities," Fico said. "You can't take anything away from them. They are a great program. We're definitely going to learn from this experience and know what we have to work on in practice to continue to get better. "
LSU was unable to cash in on four separate scoring opportunities with at least one runner in scoring position. Heyward and Bell were stranded on second base during the third and fourth innings, respectively, after providing leadoff hits.
The Tigers had the tying runners aboard in the fifth inning as Alcaraz and A.J. Andrews set the table with singles. Jacee Blades lifted a fly ball to shallow centerfield, but UCLA's Allexis Bennent sprawled out for a diving catch. A passed ball enabled both LSU runners to move up into scoring position before Allison Falcon grounded out to end the frame.
"Their centerfielder played great and made a couple of diving catches that changed the ballgame," Torina said. "Credit UCLA for playing solid defense and for making big pitches when they counted."
LSU put together one final rally attempt during the seventh. Alcaraz and Heyward smacked consecutive out-out singles through the middle. An Andrews ground ball to the right side advanced the tying runs into scoring position. However, pinch hitter Dylan Supak lined out to first base for the game's final out.
UCLA's Paige McDuffee went the distance and was touched up for seven hits. She stranded six of LSU's eight baserunners in scoring position. She picked up two strikeouts versus zero walks and has won all of four decisions on the season.
"I think we need to do a better job of manufacturing runs," Torina said. "I didn't think we moved our runners over when the opportunities presented themselves, and we didn't make the most of the hits that we did get. Rikki and Simone had some great moments for us this weekend, but we couldn't get that timely hit to score runs today."
LSU continues its 13-game road swing and wraps up non-conference tournament play next weekend at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic held in Orlando, Fla. where the Tigers will meet No. 9 Oregon, No. 15 Michigan, No. 18 Syracuse, Penn State and Syracuse.
"It's definitely a grind, and we have to put our work in this week at practice to be prepared," Torina said. "There's no doubt we have our work cut out for us next weekend and face five solid programs. We just have to grind it out game-by-game, and as coaches try to get them prepared as much as we can."
Every LSU softball game will have live stats available inside the Geaux Zone at LSUsports.net/live. Fans also can follow every pitch of LSU softball via live in-game updates on LSU softball's social media outlets at www.Facebook.com/lsusoftball and @lsusoftball on Twitter.
LSU's next home game will be Wednesday, March 13 versus Nicholls State with a 6 p.m. first pitch. Tickets can be purchased online at www.LSUtix.net or on-site starting at $5 for adult general admission and $3 for youth ages 3-12. Season tickets also are on-sale for $75 and additional ticket information is available at www.LSUtix.net.
Offense Highlights Doubleheader Sweep for UK
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The No. 20/22 University of Kentucky softball team used incredible offensive performances in both games of its doubleheader to take down Howard 14-0 in game one and win a thrilling 11-inning contest against USC Upstate 12-8 in game two, concluding play in the Coke Zero Spartan Classic with a 11-3 overall record. The tournament was played at Cyrill Stadium in Spartanburg, S.C.
After defeating Howard handily in game one Sunday, the Wildcats stayed on the field to take on the host Spartans in what turned out to be the most exciting game of the season for UK. USC Upstate, which entered the game undefeated with a 10-0 record, started the game with a bang behind a grand slam from Jessica Ujvari to take a 4-0 lead.
The Wildcats fought back, however, scoring seven runs over the next four innings. The comeback was paced by sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner, who blasted a two-run homer in the fourth inning to give UK its first lead. The Wildcats had a 7-6 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning when Upstate’s top hitter Shellie Robinson blasted a homer to centerfield to start the seventh inning and force extra innings.
Both teams played international tiebreaker rules in extra innings, placing the batter who committed the last out of the previous inning on second base. UK played small ball to regain the lead in the top of the ninth, but USC Upstate fought back in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game and force more frames.
Finally, UK got the lead for good in the top of the 11th inning. Freshman Sylver Samuel started the inning at second base, moving to third on the bunt single by senior infielder Kara Dill. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner came through on the next at bat, singling to left field to score Samuel and give UK a lead it would not relinquish. The Wildcats scored two more runs on a single by junior Lauren Cumbess, who scored the fourth run of the inning on a wild pitch.
True freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley, who came in to pitch in the third innings after Cumbess started the game allowing five earned runs, got the win after working nine innings, allowing two earned runs while striking out four. Nunley worked a quick 12th inning, getting three groundouts to seal the UK victory.
Joiner led Kentucky (11-3) on the day, hitting .625 (5-for-8) in both games with two doubles, one homer and six RBI. The native of Hopkinsville, Ky., went 2-for-5 in the game against USC Upstate, totaling three RBI, including a two-run homer. On the season, Joiner is hitting .361 (13-of-36) with a team-high three homers. Joiner also has four doubles and 12 RBI.
Cumbess, seniors Alice O’Brien and Dill, and freshmen Maisie Steed and Christian Stokes also had good days at the plate. Cumbess hit .500 (2-for-4) on the day with three RBI, while O’Brien went 2-for-5 with two runs scored and a solo homer. Dill collected three hits on the day, including a 2-for-6 game against USC Upstate, while Stokes had two hits and four RBI and Steed blasted her second homer of the year with two RBI. Dill’s six at bats against USC Upstate ties the school record for at bats in a game.
Cumbess still leads the Wildcats in hitting this season with a .452 (19-of-42) average, including four doubles, two homers and a team-high 15 RBI. Dill is third on the team in average at .360 (18-of-50) with a team-high 15 runs scored and three RBI. O’Brien has shown her power this season with three doubles, one homer and nine RBI.
Back-and-forth went the Wildcats and Spartans in game two of the day. After the grand slam in the first by USC Upstate, UK cut the lead to 4-3. The Wildcats scored two runs in the second after Stokes got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and junior Ginny Carroll earned a sacrifice fly. In the third inning, O’Brien supplied the power with a deep homer to right field, her first of the season.
USC Upstate earned a run in the bottom of the third after back-to-back doubles before UK got three runs in the top of the fourth, including the two-run bomb from Joiner, to take a 6-5 lead. UK increased the lead to 7-6 in the top of the fifth on the homer by Steed before Upstate got a homer from Robinson in the fifth and seventh to send the game to extra innings. UK then posted the four-run 11th inning to seal the victory.
The Wildcats started the day with a strong 14-0 victory over Howard of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. True freshman pitcher Katie Henderson was the star of the game for UK, throwing a one-hitter in her first collegiate action. Henderson went all five innings in the game, allowing the lone hit with two outs in the fourth inning, while striking out eight.
Offensively, Stokes and Joiner each had three RBI with Stokes clearing the bases on a double and Joiner launching two doubles. Cumbess went 1-for-1 in the game with two RBI, while sophomore Kara Howard had a two-RBI triple. Freshman Nikki Sagermann also added a RBI.
The Wildcats conclude the weekend having won eight of their last nine games, including three wins over teams ranked or receiving votes in one major poll. UK started the winning stretch with a victory over then-No. 20 Stanford, before taking down Cal Poly and San Diego State, who is receiving votes, in day one of the 23rd Campbell/Cartier Classic. UK concluded the tournament out west with wins over No. 16 Washington and UC Riverside, while its lone loss during the stretch came to No. 1 Oklahoma.
UK went 3-0 in the Coke Zero Spartan Classic, taking down Georgetown, Howard and USC Upstate. In all, the Wildcats scored 34 runs in the tournament, allowing only eight runs – all of which to USC Upstate.
Kentucky will return to the Bluegrass State for a few days of practice before ending its season-opening road trip with the Under Armour Invitational in Tampa, Fla., from March 1-3. The Wildcats will host Marshall on March 6 at 5 p.m. ET for its 2013 home opener in the newly constructed UK Softball Complex.
Kentucky will play host to the SEC Tournament this season for the first time in school history. The event, which is considered one of the most prestigious softball tournaments in the nation, will be May 8-11 in Lexington. The championship game will be featured on ESPN2, while all other games will be shown on ESPNU. Ticket information for the tournament can be found here:http://www.ukathletics.com/secsoftball/tickets.html.
For the latest on UK softball, follow “@UKSoftball” on Twitter or like Kentucky Softball on Facebook.