April 15, 2006
HATTIESBURG, Miss. --- The UAB softball team had 22 hits including three home runs Friday night splitting a doubleheader with Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. Sophomore Leigh Walker led UAB at the plate, hitting a two-run shot over the left field fence to lift the Blazers past USM in game one, 5-3. UAB's rally came up short in the nightcap falling, 11-7, to the Golden Eagles.
The Blazers move to 25-17 overall after the doubleheader split and have an 11-5 Conference USA record. The Golden Eagles are now 22-27 on the year with an 8-5 conference mark. Both teams will battle Saturday in the series finale that could have potential implications in the final conference standings and post-season play.
"Our win in game one was huge because we were able to come back and beat a good Southern Miss team," said UAB head coach Marla Townsend. "When we needed someone to step up in game one, Leigh (Walker) came through with a big two-run home run. It was a good team effort and Jennifer (Nelson) pitched a great game. In the second game, we battled and kept fighting back. I'm pleased with the effort today and the fact that we had 22 hits. We stranded 18 runners on base but the fact that we had that many scoring opportunities is a positive. We need to come out tomorrow with the same intensity and play aggressive."
USM executed on a sacrifice bunt to score in the first inning to take an early lead in game one. The Blazers came back and tied the game at one in the second inning on a sacrifice fly by freshman Kayla Harris to score Nicole Whitlock, who walked to lead off the inning.
The Golden Eagles plated runs in the bottom of the second and fourth innings but it wasn't enough to overcome four runs by UAB in the final three innings.
The Blazers tied the game in the fourth on a double by Holly Krzan
and a sacrifice fly by freshman Andrea Rogers
. In the inning, senior Chelsea McCall
and Krzan both scored and shifted the momentum to UAB.
With the game tied at three, Walker came through for the Blazers with a game-winning two-run home run in the top of the seventh to beat USM, 5-3. It was the first victory for UAB in Hattiesburg.
Nelson got the win for UAB and moved to 12-7 overall. She pitched seven innings allowing three runs on four hits. She also struck out 10 batters and is tied for the all-time single-season strikeout record with 167 strikeouts.
Walker and Krzan led the way at the plate. Walker went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a run scored. Krzan was 2-for-3 in the game with a run and RBI.
In game two, the Golden Eagles scored first on a Jennifer Fox two-run home run in the opening frame. USM cruised into the second inning with a two-run lead over the Blazers but UAB would respond.
UAB came storming back in the top of the second inning to tie the game at two. In the inning, the Blazers collected three straight singles and got a sacrifice fly out to right field by Lindsay Stanley to plate the runs.
USM exploded offensively in the home half of the second inning. The Golden Eagles scored five runs on two doubles, a triple and a home run off of UAB starter Kayla Harris. USM added another run the third inning for insurance.
The Blazers bats came alive in the fifth inning to chip away at the deficit. Freshman Jacy Leon belted a three-run shot to left field to help UAB score four runs and pulled with two of the Golden Eagles. Freshman Andrea Rogers led off the inning with her first career triple and Nicole Whitlock singled up the middle.
UAB had climbed back into the game after falling behind early and waited for an opportunity to pull even. The Blazers started the bottom of the fifth inning off with a double play and awaited an opportunity to get back up to the plate. USM had other plans, the Golden Eagles forced three runs across with two outs to move ahead, 11-6.
The Blazers tried to rally in the top of the seventh but fell short. UAB loaded the bases for the top of the lineup but could not prevail. Walker hit a solo shot in the seventh inning but it wasn't enough. The shot was Walker's second of the day and her fourth of the year.
Junior Brittany Hodge came on in relief for the Blazers and pitched well. Hodge threw four innings allowing four hits and one earned run. Harris started the game for UAB but only pitched two innings giving up seven earned runs on six hits.
UAB out-hit USM in both games and had nine different players have at least a hit in game two. Whitlock went 2-for-4 with a double and a RBI while Leon led the way going 3-for-4 with three RBI and a run scored. Harris and Stanley were the other two Blazers with multiple hits.
The final game of the series is set for Saturday at 1 p.m. at the USM Softball Complex. Complete coverage of the UAB softball can be found at www.uabsports.com.