May 11, 2011
GREENVILLE, N.C. -
The University of Memphis softball team will play tournament host East Carolina in the opening round of the Conference USA Softball Championship on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. ET (3:30 CT) at the ECU Softball Field.
The Tigers enter the tournament as the No. 4 seed, the highest regular season finish in program history, while ECU hosts the event as the No. 5 seed. The winner of the 4/5 matchup will take on the winner between No. 1 seed Houston and No. 8 seed Southern Miss on Friday in the C-USA semifinals at 4:30 p.m. ET. The championship game will be played on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET and will be televised live by CBS College Sports.
Memphis is in unchartered territory after finishing the regular season with a 35-11 record and going 15-7 in league play. The Tigers are ranked No. 43 in the RPI and have just two losses against teams ranked outside the top 50. East Carolina is ranked No. 44 in the RPI.
The Tigers own the series victory against the Pirates, winning two of three games in Greenville earlier in the year. Senior LHP Janelle Valle was named the C-USA Pitcher of the Week following the series after holding ECU to no runs and just one hit in 10 innings. Valle earned a save in game two's victory and then pitched a one-hit shutout in game three in a 1-0 victory against three-time C-USA Pitcher of the Year, Toni Paisley.
Memphis enters the tournament ranked fifth in C-USA in pitching with a 1.70 ERA. Sophomore RHP Carly Hummel leads the squad with a 20-5 record and a 1.27 ERA. The Bakersfield, Calif., native is only the second Tiger to reach the 20-win plateau in a season. She has 181 strikeouts in 148.1 innings and eight shutouts, including three no hitters.
Valle is 6-2 on the season with a 1.61 ERA. She has appeared in 19 games with 12 starts and has three shutouts on the year.
Offensively, Memphis is hitting .251 as a team with 37 home runs and a .409 slugging percentage. The U of M is led by C-USA All-Conference selection Heather Mott who is hitting .372 with a36 runs scored, 10 home runs and 29 RBI. The senior shortstop has hit safely in 16 of the last 17 games.
Junior first baseman Jessica Phillips is near the top in several offensive categories in Conference USA. She is hitting .336 with a school season record 14 home runs and 43 RBI with a .734 slugging percentage. The Chattanooga, Tenn., native was a C-USA Hitter of the Week selection three times in 2011 and has four multi-homer games.
East Carolina will likely throw their ace, Paisley, against the Tigers. The redshirt senior earned the C-USA Pitcher of the Year honor for the third-straight season and is 27-11 on the year with a 1.11 ERA and 344 strikeouts.
The Pirates are hitting .245 on the season and are led offensively by Suzanne Riggs who is hitting .306 with four home runs and 35 RBI. ECU has hit just 12 homers on the season but has given up only 17.
Last Year in the C-USA Tournament
Memphis advanced to the C-USA semifinals, after beating Tulsa in the quarterfinals. Carly Hummel threw a complete-game three-hitter, striking out three for her season's 15th victory. Vanessa Walle and Heather Mott each hit home runs for the Tigers. Against UCF in the semis, Memphis fell, 3-1. Hummel started and threw five innings in a no-decision. Maddie McKinley pushed across Memphis' lone run on a solo homer.
Last Time against East Carolina
In the conference-schedule opener for 2011, the Tigers got their first-ever series victory against East Carolina. Despite dropping game one, 4-1, Memphis roared back in the second game of the doubleheader thanks to six solid innings from Lauren Carley. Jessica Phillips and Ashleigh King drove in Memphis' runs for a 2-1 victory. In the finale, Janelle Valle earned herself C-USA Pitcher of the Week honors, tossing a one-hitter for the victory. Phillips drove in Maddie McKinley on the game's lone run, defeating East Carolina All-American Toni Paisley.
All-Time Against East Carolina
East Carolina owns a 12-5 mark all-time against the Tigers, even after Memphis took two of three from the Pirates to open the 2011 Conference USA schedule. Prior to that, East Carolina had won 10 in a row dating back to 2007.
Against the Pirates in the Conference Tournament
This is Memphis' second-ever meeting with ECU during C-USA tournament time. In Memphis' second game of the 2007 tournament, Jenna Kubesch retired the first 26 batters she faced but ultimately lost, 1-0, in 10 innings. Kubesch was masterful in defeat, striking out 12 opposite Paisley (the C-USA Freshman of the Year that season). She retired the first two batters she faced in the ninth inning before ECU's Christina Merida finally broke through with a base knock. Memphis placed only one runner in scoring position all day (on a sixth-inning double from Lindsay Pridgen), but the only runner in scoring position ECU produced in the game proved to be the deciding one, when the Pirates' Charina Sumner tripled to open the 10th inning, followed by Kaui Tom singling her home for the victory.
The Conference USA tournament can be followed through live stats provided by CBS College Sports GameTracker. Live chat provided by Memphis Media Relations will also be available for each game. Links to the live chat and GameTracker can be found at GoTigersGo.com. Conference USA will also provide All-Access video, for which a link will be provided at GoTigersGo.com.
A victory will propel Memphis into the conference tournament semifinals for the second-straight season, where they would face the winner of the No. 1 vs. No. 8 match-up between regular season champion Houston and Southern Miss, Friday, at 3:30 p.m. (CT). Should they prevail, they would play in the Conference Championship game, Saturday, at 12 p.m. (CT), in a game that would be televised on CBS College Sports. A loss at any point leaves the Tigers (and their seven seniors) at the mercy of the selection committee to deem the U of M worthy of an at-large selection into the 2011 NCAA Softball Tournament.
For the fifth season in a row, the Tigers have qualified for the C-USA tournament. In three of their past four trips to the C-USA tournament, Memphis has been victorious in at least one game, a streak the Tigers are looking to continue.
Tigers Sweep Southern Miss, Ending Regular Season at 35-11
Memphis traveled to Hattiesburg and swept through Southern Miss to solidify their fourth-place regular season finish, the highest in school history. In game one, Carly Hummel threw a complete-game, her season's 18th, for a 4-1 win. Nikki Moreno went 3-for-3 with a home run and two RBI to pace the Tiger offense. Lauren Carley picked up the victory in relief of Janelle Valle in the second game, going 4.1 innings and allowing a mere two hits. Heather Mott homered for the ninth time in 2011 for Memphis. In the finale, Mott homered again and Hummel became just the second Tiger pitcher to record 20 wins in a season in Memphis' 3-1 victory.
Memphis Successful in Conference Play
The Tigers finished the 2011 campaign with their best record in conference play. Memphis went 15-7 in the league and finished the eight conference series 5-2-1. The only two series losses came to C-USA regular season co-champions Houston and Tulsa. Four of the U of M's five league series victories came by way of sweeps.
Memphis Wins 10 Straight
The Tigers set a new program record with 10-straight victories Between April 6 and April 23. The previous record was eight games, which the team had accomplished earlier this season as well as in 2007. Memphis has won 14 of its last 15 games.