Softball Living The Dream At C-USA Championship
May 13, 2006
Tulsa, Okla. -Tulsa freshman Brooke Smart made the last swing of the 2006 Conference USA Softball Championship an important one as she belted a walk-off home run to give the top-seeded Golden Hurricane a 3-0 victory over No. 2 seed Marshall in the title game. Tulsa's first conference tournament title gives the school its first trip to the NCAA Championship as the Golden Hurricane earned the league's automatic bid.
The championship is Tulsa's fourth Conference USA title this season. The Golden Hurricane also won league crowns in football, women's basketball and men's tennis. The women's basketball and softball teams also won the regular season titles as well as the post-season tournament.
The game went scoreless through six innings at the Donna J. Hardesty Sports Complex before Smart connected on her team-leading 10th home run of the season on a two-out, two-strike count in the bottom of the seventh.
"I just kept hoping that something would happen where it would end in the seventh inning," Tulsa head coach John Bargfeldt said. "I didn't want to go out another inning. You dodge those bullets for seven innings against a good team like that, and I was just hoping that something would happen right there."
Golden Hurricane junior Julie Fennell (13-8) gave the squad its second shutout of the day, allowing only four hits and just one after the second inning. Senior Maren Genow tossed a one-hitter in Tulsa's 1-0 victory in game nine, advancing TU to the title game.
In the opening frame, the first two Marshall batters reached base on singles, but Fennell set down the next three batters in order to get out of the jam.
Deanna Tourville singled in the second inning after having her at-bat kept alive by an illegal pitch and moved up a base on the second illegal pitch by Fennell in the inning, but the Herd left a runner in scoring position for the second-straight frame.
Back-to-back singles by Smart and Julie Shafer put runners on first and third with one out in the Tulsa half of the third, but the Golden Hurricane came up empty after a double-play ended the threat. Katie Torres lined out to leftfield and J.J. Bittner made a strong throw to the plate to double up Smart, who was trying to tag on the play.
Veronica Ralston replaced Harter after the third. The senior retired the side in order in the fourth, but walked two batters in the fifth. However, a Herd double play once again squelched a TU scoring chance.
After four-consecutive hitless innings by Fennell, Samantha Rodriguez led off the sixth with a single for the Herd. Pinch-runner Rachael Sofie advanced to second on a sac bunt, but was the third runner Marshall left stranded in scoring position.
A walk to Jessica Barr and a single by pinch-hitter Lindsey Tower set the stage for Smart's dramatics in the final frame. Tower was 2-for-2 as a pinch-hitter in the championship, also homering to tie game four that TU went on to win, 4-3, in 10 innings.
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