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Softball Advances to C-USA Finals with 4-3 Win over Houston

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May 11, 2012

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Jessica Stoelke's RBI ground out in the top of the seventh to lead Tulsa past Houston, 4-3, in the semifinals of the 2012 Conference USA Championship Friday afternoon at UAB Softball Field.

The Golden Hurricane (40-12) advances to the C-USA Championship game for the second straight year and third time in the last four years. TU will play the winner of the UAB and Marshall semifinal at 10 a.m. Saturday live on CBS Sports Network.

Lacey Middlebrooks (19-5) struck out eight batters and walked three in the complete-game win. Houston's Summer Groholski (8-6) entered in relief of Bailey Watts and pitched 5.2 innings in the loss for the Cougars (34-22).

Tulsa loaded the bases in the seventh inning on three consecutive walks by second baseman Skylar Swanson, Middlebrooks and first baseman Julie Kernen. Stoelke then grounded the ball to first base, allowing Swanson to score, providing the winning run for the Hurricane.

Catcher Cassidy Bowen hit a two-run single in the second inning to put the Hurricane ahead, 2-0. Her base hit came with the bases loaded and scored Middlebrooks and Shelby Blanton, who started the rally with a walk and a single.

TU extended its lead to 3-0 in the fourth inning when it loaded the bases with an error, a walk and a single, and scored on an illegal pitch. Bowen reached on an error at third base, left fielder Cierra Hughes walked and center fielder Caitlin Everett singled. Bowen scored the run for TU.

Middlebrooks allowed just one hit and one walk in the first four innings. With two out and a runner on first in the fifth, first baseman Jennifer Hooker hit a liner back to the circle. Middlebrooks knocked it down, but in a hurry to get the runner at first, the throw went awry, allowing the runners to move up to second and third. Third baseman Holly Anderson then doubled to left center to make the score 3-2.

Catcher Haley Outon hit a solo home run off the left field foul pole in the sixth to tie the game at 3-3.

Following Outon's one-out homer, Middlebrooks retired the side in the sixth and allowed just one hit in the seventh, striking out pinch hitter Sydney Gerbracht to end the game.

The C-USA Championship game was moved up from its originally scheduled time of 1 p.m. due to the threat of severe weather. The championship contest will be shown live at 10 a.m. and again on tape delay at its original 1 p.m. time slot.

The Golden Hurricane is making its fourth C-USA finals appearance in program history. TU also played in C-USA Championship finals in 2006, 2009 and 2011. The Hurricane holds a 2-1 record in the championship game. Tulsa defeated Marshall 3-0 in 2006, UTEP 11-3 in 2009, and fell to East Carolina 4-1 in 2011.

For all Tulsa softball news and information, visit www.TulsaHurricane.com. Follow Tulsa Athletics on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/TulsaHurricane and Facebook at www.facebook.com/TulsaHurricane. Follow Tulsa softball on Twitter (www.twitter.com/TulsaSoftball) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/utulsasoftball).

Tulsa 4, Houston 3 (May 11, 2012 at Birmingham, Ala.)
Tulsa............... 020 100 1 -  4  5  2      (40-12)
Houston............. 000 021 0 -  3  4  2      (34-22)
Pitchers: Tulsa - Middlebrooks, Lacey and Bowen, Cassidy. Houston - Watts,Bailey;
Groholski,Summer(2) and Outon,Haley.
Win-MIDDLEBROOKS, Lacey(19-5)  Loss-Groholski,Summer(8-6)  T-2:09  A-0
HR HOU - Outon,Haley.