BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Tulsa defeated third seed Marshall, 3-2, at the UAB Softball Field in Birmingham, Ala., Saturday to win the Conference USA Softball Championship. The Golden Hurricane are the eighth team in C-USA history to sweep the regular season and tournament titles. The Golden Hurricane earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Division I Softball Tournament selection show airs at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT Sunday on ESPNU.
C-USA Championship Stats Summary
C-USA Softball Championship Recaps
Game 7: (1) Tulsa 3, (3) Marshall 2 Box Score
Tulsa (41-12) would grab the lead in the bottom of the second inning when they loaded the bases and got an RBI infield single from Jill Barrett that scored Cassidy Bowen. Bowen would play a role in the next Tulsa run in the fourth inning, leading off with a double to left field and taking third on a sacrifice bunt. A Caitlin Everett single up the middle scored Bowen and gave Tulsa a 2-0 lead.
Undeterred, Marshall (36-21) struck back in the top of the fifth. Two walks sandwiched around a bunt single loaded the bases for the heart of the Thundering Herd batting order. Ashley Gue sliced a single to left field to pull one run back. Catcher Rebecca Gamby tied the game at two with a ground ball to second base.
The tie would last only until the bottom of the inning when Tulsa's Cierra Hughes drew a bases loaded walk with two outs, following an intentional walk to Bowen.
Tournament Most Valuable Player Lacey Middlebrooks would retire the Herd in order in the sixth, then work around a lead-off double in the seventh to secure Tulsa’s third C-USA Tournament title. Middlebrooks improved to 20-5 for the season and scattered seven hits and struck out three.
2012 C-USA All-Tournament Team
- Jennifer Hooker, Houston
- Haley Outon, Houston
- Kristen McGrath, UAB
- Taylor Thompson, Marshall
- Samantha Spurlock, Marshall
- Ashley Gue, Marshall
- Andi Williamson, Marshall
- Shelby Blanton, Tulsa
- Samantha Cobb, Tulsa
- Skylar Swanson, Tulsa
- Lacey Middlebrooks, Tulsa - MVP
Tulsa advanced the C-USA championship game for the third time in four seasons with a 4-3 semifinal win over No. 5 Houston. The championship game will be played at 10 a.m. CT, having been moved up because of impending inclement weather. The game will air live on CBS Sports Network.
The top seed Golden Hurricane (40-12) struck first in the top of the second inning. After loading the bases via walk, single and an error, catcher Cassidy Bowen laced a single down the left field line to plate two. Tulsa would add to its lead in the fourth, scoring its third run after Houston reliever Summer Groholski balked.
Houston’s offense would answer with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth when Holly Anderson sliced a double down the left field line to score Julia Pecina and Jennifer Hooker. In the sixth inning, the Cougars (34-22) would tie the game on a Haley Outon solo home run, her 22nd blast of the season.
With the game tied at three in the top of the seventh inning, Tulsa drew three straight walks before Jessica Stoelke hit a sharp ground ball to first that was initially mishandled and allowed the go-ahead run to score.
Lacey Middlebrooks would close out the Houston offense in the seventh to earn her 19th win of the season. Middlebrooks struck out eight and allowed just four Houston hits.
Game 6: (3) Marshall 3, (2) UAB 2 (10) Box Score
Extra innings were needed to determine the second finalist at the C-USA Softball Championship, with No. 3 seed Marshall pulling out a walk-off, 3-2, win in 10 innings over host UAB. The Thundering Herd advance to face top seed Tulsa in Saturday’s championship.
The championship game will be played at 10 a.m. CT, having been moved up because of impending inclement weather. The game will air live on CBS Sports Network.
Marshall and UAB (37-20) both had the answer for every situation, exchanging runs in both halves of the third and fourth inning, before posting five straight scoreless frames. UAB’s Kristen McGrath gave the Blazers the lead in the top of the third inning, singling home Catherine Crawford with two out in the inning. Marshall (36-20) answered back in the bottom of the inning when Alianna Telles executed a sacrifice squeeze bunt that allowed Samantha Spurlock to beat the relay throw to the plate.
The Blazers used some of their own aggressive play to regain the lead in the top of the fourth, catching the Herd defense off-balance with a double-steal of third and home by Heather Pearson and Hayley Davis, respectively.
That lead also would be short-lived, as Marshall used small ball to push across its second run of the game. Alysia Hively walked to lead off the inning and was sacrificed to second base before advancing to third on a bunt single. Spurlock laid down another sacrifice-squeeze to score Hively.
The score remained deadlocked until the 10th, when Marshall loaded the bases with one out. After UAB pitcher Leigh Streetman recorded a strikeout for the second out of the inning, Spurlock again played the hero role for Marshall with a single through the middle to score pinch runner Kristina Braxton.
Andi Williamson earned the win for Marshall, throwing all 10 innings and striking out seven.
Game 1: (1) Tulsa 6, (8) Southern Miss 0 Box Score
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Top seed Tulsa won the opening game of the 2012 C-USA Softball Championship, 6-0, over Southern Miss. Tulsa advances to face the winner of UCF and Houston in the first semifinal at 2 p.m. Friday.
The Golden Hurricane (39-12) bats got started early when Skylar Swanson singled home Jill Barrett in the bottom of the first inning for a 1-0 lead. Caitlin Everett drove home Jessica Stoelke with a single to left field to extend the lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the second.
Tulsa starter Aimee Creger threw a complete game shutout, striking out eight batters and allowing five hits. She improved to 18-5 for the season.
A two-run home run from Swanson in the fifth inning pushed the lead to 4-0. The Golden Hurricane added two more runs in the sixth inning off of a leadoff home run from Julie Kernen and a sacrifice fly from Swanson.
Swanson finished the game 3-for-3 with a home run and four RBI. Shortstop Samantha Cobb was 3-for-4 with a run scored.
Southern Miss (13-34) was led offensively by shortstop Caroline Walker and Brittany Lilly, who both were 2-for-3 at the plate.
Game 2: (5) Houston 6, (4) UCF 2 Box Score
All-conference catcher Haley Outon hit a three-run home run on the top of the third inning to give Houston a lead it would never relinquish in game two of the Conference USA Softball Championship, as they claimed a 6-2 win over UCF. The Cougars advance to tomorrow's first semifinal against No. 1 seed Tulsa.
Outon hit an off-speed pitch over the left field fence for her 21st home run of the season and Houston would build its lead in both of the next two innings. After UCF (39=17) answered with a run in the bottom of the third when Alena Murgatroyd scored after a single by Natalie Land, Houston struck for a run in the fourth and two more during the fifth inning.
The Cougars (34-21) would mount a two-out rally during the fourth inning when Jennifer Hooker double to right center and scored when Holly Anderson lined a single to left field. In the fifth inning, Melissa Gregson led off with a single up the middle, was sacrificed to second and stole third before scoring on a wild pitch. UH would load the bases with one out and scored its sixth run on a sacrifice fly by Julia Pecina.
Houston starter Bailey Watts (15-8) earned the win, striking out eight and allowing just one earned run.
Farrah Sullivan was 2-for-3 for UCF, while Alena Murgatroyd scored both runs for the Knights.
Game 3: (3) Marshall 8, (6) East Carolina 1 Box Score
A leadoff home run from Alianna Telles propelled Marshall to an 8-1 win in the third quarterfinal at the C-USA Softball Championship at the UAB Softball Field in Birmingham, Ala. The Thundering Herd advance to face the winner of No. 2 seed UAB and No. 7 Memphis.
The Herd would do damage in the third inning, posting four runs and five hits. Jazmine Valle punched a single to left field with the bases loaded to drive home two to push the lead to three. Bri Anna Hope singled home another run and chased ECU starter Sarah Christian. Pinch hitter Jessica Ferrick reached on a fielder's choice that plated Alysia Hively.
In the bottom of the fourth, Hively would double home two more to give Marshall a 7-0 lead.
Jasmine Robbins led off the East Carolina fifth inning with a double to right field and would come around to score on a fielder's choice off the bat of Jill Jelnick.
Marshall would push another run across in the bottom of the sixth for the final score of 8-1.
Andi Williamson (24-12) earned the win for Marshall, striking out five and allowing four hits and one earned run.
Game 4: (2) UAB 2, (7) Memphis 0 Box Score
No. 2 seed UAB rode the left arm of starting pitcher Lannah Campbell and a pinch-hit home run from Issa Brown to stave off No. 7 Memphis, 2-0, in game four of the C-USA Softball Championship. UAB advances to Friday's semifinal round and will face No. 3 Marshall at 4:30 p.m. at UAB Softball Field.
Campbell and Memphis starter Ellen Roberts locked horns in a pitcher's duel that held the game scoreless through 4.5 innings. Roberts would allow just three hits during the game, but two of those hits would arrive in the bottom half of the fifth inning.
Kristen McGrath led off the frame with a double to deep right field - the first UAB hit since the first inning - and was lifted for a pinch runner, Tiffany Smith. After Smith was sacrificed to third, pinch hitter Issa Brown took the 0-1 offering from Roberts deep over the left field fence to give Campbell all the support she would need.
Campbell (15-6) allowed just four hits and struck out seven in the complete game effort.
Single-game batting (min. 3 AB): 1.000 (3-for-3) Skylar Swanson, Tulsa v. Southern Miss, 5-10-12
Single-game runs scored: 3, Alianna Telles, Marshall v. East Carolina, 5-10-12
IRVING, Texas - The 2012 Conference USA Softball Championship gets underway this Thursday at the UAB Softball Field in Birmingham, Ala. Tulsa is the No. 1 seed at the Championship after winning the C-USA regular season title outright, while host UAB is the No. 2 seed. The C-USA Championship runs from May 10-12 with the final televised live on CBS Sports Network at 1 p.m. CT Saturday.
C-USA Championship Notebook
C-USA Digital Network
C-USA Softball Championship Central
Quarterfinal and semifinal round action can be seen live on the C-USA Digital Network. The C-USA Digital Network combines streaming audio and video content from all 12 member institutions to provide the most thorough coverage of Conference USA athletics anywhere in the world. Sign-up now to access live game broadcasts, exclusive behind-the-scenes video, game highlights, original programming and press conferences from 25 men's and women's sports across the C-USA Conference, with additional coverage from conference postseason tournaments and events.
C-USA Softball Championship Schedule:
Thursday, May 10
Gm.1 - (1) Tulsa v. (8) Southern Miss - 11 a.m. CT - C-USA Digital Network
Gm. 2 - (4) UCF v. (5) Houston - 1:30 p.m. CT - C-USA Digital Network
Gm. 3 - (3) Marshall v. (6) East Carolina - 4:30 p.m. CT - C-USA Digital Network
Gm. 4 - (2) UAB v. (7) Memphis - 7 p.m. CT - C-USA Digital Network
Friday, May 11
Gm. 5 - Games 1 & 2 winners - 2 p.m. CT - C-USA Digital Network
Gm. 6 - Games 3 & 4 winners - 4:30 p.m. CT - C-USA Digital Network
Saturday, May 12
Gm. 7 - Games 5 & 6 Winners - 1 p.m. CT - CBS Sports Network
It's good to be the top seed at the C-USA Softball Championship. The No. 1 seed has won the tournament seven times in 12 years. The No. 2 seed has won the event on three occassions. Last year, tournament host East Carolina became the lowest seed to win the championship, entering as the No. 5 seed.
The tournament host has won the title just three times in league history. Twice in Championship history has the host finished as the runner-up. Host East Carolina won the tournament title last season.
You Look Familiar
Two quarterfinal matchups will pair teams that went head-to-head in C-USA series just two weekends ago. The 4/5 game between UCF and Houston and the 3/6 tilt between Marshall and East Carolina are rematches from the final weekend in April. Homestanding UCF swept the series with Houston and East Carolina took two of three games from Marshall in Greenville.
It's Been A While
In contrast, the the 1/8 quarterfinal between Tulsa and Southern Miss and the 2/7 pairing between UAB and Memphis reunite teams that tangled during the opening few weeks of conference play. UAB and Memphis opened league play against each other March 10, with UAB earning a three-game sweep, while Tulsa and Southern Miss played during week three, with Tulsa earning the series sweep.
Eight of the 12 C-USA Championship winners have come as part of a consecutive title streak. Southern Miss won back-to-back crowns in 2000 and 2001 before DePaul won four straight (02-05). East Carolina has won the past two league tournament titles.
By the Percentages
UCF holds the best winning percentage in C-USA Championship play among current members with a .643 (9-5) clip. Tulsa (.571) and Houston (.536) have the next-best marks. UTEP (.500) is the only other team with a .500 or better record at the league tournament.
Four Conference USA schools are in the top 45 of the May 7 NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) report, with five in the top 60 and six teams in the top 85.
C-USA sent five teams to the 2011 NCAA Tournament, with Houston winning the Austin Regional, while Tulsa and East Carolina advanced to the Norman and College Park Regional finals. C-USA's five tournament teams posted a combined 11 wins and all five teams earned at least one victory.
Well Deserved Bids
Conference USA has consistently been one of the top softball leagues in the country and is one of just seven leagues to place as many as five teams into the NCAA tournament since the field expanded in 2003.
Only C-USA, the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, the Pac 12 and SEC have had five teams selected more than one time.
Three C-USA teams have advanced to the Women's College World Series.