Softball Wins Conference USA Championship
May 3, 2009
TULSA, Okla. - The University of Tulsa softball team won its second Conference USA regular season championship Sunday afternoon, finishing a sweep of Southern Miss with a 2-0 victory at the Donna J. Hardesty Sports Complex.
Junior Jackie Lawrence (17-4) pitched a complete game shutout and junior Vanessa Vice and senior Kailey Yarmer each had an RBI in the game to lead the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa completes the regular season at 35-15 and 16-4 in C-USA play, its most conference wins since it joined the league in 2006. Southern Miss falls 25-27-2 overall and 10-13-1 in the league with the loss.
Tulsa entered the weekend needing three wins over Southern Miss to overtake East Carolina for first place, and it fought off heavy rain storms all week, including delayed start times Saturday and Sunday to take care of business. The Golden Hurricane won 10 straight C-USA games to finish the season, and completed the league schedule unscathed at home, a perfect 9-0. The conference winning streak is a school-record for most consecutive conference wins.
Tulsa will be the No. 1 seed in the 2009 Conference USA Championship presented by Helen of Troy, which takes place May 7-9 in El Paso, Texas. The Hurricane will play the winner of No. 8-seed UAB and No. 9-seed Memphis on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. CDT.
"It feels great, and what makes me feel great is to see where we came from to put ourselves in a position (to win the championship)," said Tulsa Head Coach John Bargfeldt, who won his second C-USA Championship as coach of the Golden Hurricane, the last one coming in 2006. "I told the girls after the game, I feel like we've been in nine-straight conference games where it's been do-or-die, in terms of the conference championship. I told them I think it's going to serve us well for a single elimination conference championship because we've basically been playing that way for the last three weeks. I'm really proud of the girls."
The win was not easy for TU, but the Hurricane fought and scratched out two runs. Held hitless through 2 2/3 innings against Southern Miss starter Samantha Davis, junior designated player Lauren Lindsay finally got a base hit through the right side in the third inning. The following inning, Yarmer led off with a high fly ball that caught up in the wind and blew away from the right fielder. Yarmer was hustling on the play and ended up at third base with a triple. Vice then doubled her home to give TU a 1-0 lead.
Tulsa scored its second run in the fourth inning on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Yarmer. Senior third baseman Stephanie Chomicki led off with a single, and freshman second baseman Skylar Swanson and Lindsay hit into consecutive fielder's choices to load the bases for Yarmer. On both occasions, the base runner beat the throw to second base.
"Vanessa came up with a big hit when we needed it," Bargfeldt said. "Kailey hustled on a fly ball that ended up being an easy triple. We got a little extra hustle out on the bases."
Lawrence pitched out of two big jams in the game, and the defense came up with great plays to save hits. In both the first and sixth innings, Southern Miss had runners in scoring position with less than two outs, but Lawrence retired the next two batters in each case to end the inning.
After Southern Miss loaded the bases with one out in the first, the next batter popped straight up to Christian Timmons behind the plate, and Lawrence got a strikeout to end the threat. In the sixth, the Golden Eagles had runners on first and second after two singles, and one out on the board. The next batter grounded out to second, and once again, Lawrence struck out the final out of the inning.
The Hurricane defense came up with some highlight-reel catches in the game as well. On one occasion, a Southern Miss batter hit a liner to left field, and Brooke Smart made a spectacular diving catch, leaving the home fans with a lasting impression on senior day. Vice nearly ran into the Southern Miss dugout to catch a foul pop up, but charged hard and made the catch at the last second.
"It's nice to see in a big game and a pressure situation, they remained calm and made the (plays) they needed to," said Bargfeldt. "Jackie was in a lot of pressure-pitch situations, but came up and threw another shutout. You can't say enough about the guts that she has with runners in scoring position and less than two outs."
Tulsa travels to El Paso, Texas, for the 2009 Conference USA Championship, presented by Helen of Troy. The Hurricane owns the No. 1 seed in the tournament, and has never been seeded lower than third in the four years it has been a member of C-USA. TU will try for its second C-USA tournament title and earn its second straight and third overall NCAA Regional berth. After winning the regular season title in 2006, TU also went on to win the C-USA tournament championship and earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Regional.
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