Third Sun Belt Title in Four Years for Softball Team
Posted on May 11, 2015
Two-seed and No. 23 University of South Alabama softball scratched two runs across
in the top of the seventh inning and rode a paramount pitching performance by freshman
right-hander Devin Brown to claim its third Sun Belt Conference Tournament title in
four years on Saturday with a 2-0 defeat of top-seed and No. 10 Louisiana-Lafayette
in San Marcos, Texas.
USA (38-11) receives the Sun Belt's automatic bid to the national tournament.
South Alabama fell to the Ragin' Cajuns, 6-3, in the winners' bracket game on Friday – a contest in which ULL booked its ticket to the final – before the Jaguars defeated five-seed Georgia State, 3-1, in an elimination game to earn a spot in the final.
The SBC Tournament trophy, which South Alabama claimed for the first time in program history in 2012 before repeating a year later, went to Louisiana-Lafayette in 2014 when the Ragin' Cajuns defeated Louisiana-Monroe in an elimination game, and then downed the Jags in the final after falling to USA in the winners' bracket tilt.
Those roles were reversed on Saturday, however, as the Jaguars rallied in the top of the seventh inning when sophomore center fielder Amanda Minahan and senior first baseman Amanda Herron each drew two-out walks to bookend senior left fielder Blair Johnson's 200th career hit, a single through the right side, which loaded the bases for freshman Haleigh Lowe, who, in a pinch-hit situation, reached on a Ragin' Cajun fielding error.
Minahan scored on the play to put USA on the board, 1-0, before Jaguar junior third baseman Emily Messer drew a bases-loaded walk to plate Johnson and double South Alabama's lead to 2-0.
ULL loaded the bases on walks in the bottom of the seventh before Brown corralled Samantha Walsh's grounder back up the middle and threw to first to cap the victory.
Brown, who entered the contest in relief of senior right-hander Farish Beard after the latter was called for a series of illegal pitches before an out was recorded, allowed only five Ragin' Cajun hits in seven innings with a pair of strikeouts.
Louisiana-Lafayette suffered its second shutout loss of the year, falling to 39-9 on the year. Right-hander Jordan Wallace dropped to 16-5 after allowing two unearned runs on three Jaguar hits with seven strikeouts and six walks.
Minahan and Johnson each batted 1-for-2 with a run scored to lead the Jaguars. Junior catcher Stephanie Pilkington recorded a hit, and Messer supplied one RBI. Rathburn and Pilkington extended their reached-base safely streaks to 17 games.
Walsh, Shellie Landry, Lexie Elkins, Leandra Maly and DJ Sanders each recorded a hit for the Ragin' Cajuns.
South Alabama improved to 4-3 all-time versus ULL in SBC Tournament play, 2-1 in the league tournament final. The Jaguars will compete in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth year in a row next weekend.
USA senior shortstop Kaitlyn Griffith was named SBC Tournament Most Outstanding Player after driving in five runs on the week and slugging .667, as well as scoring a run when she hit her 13thhomer of the year and the 28th of her career, the most in Jaguar single-season history and tied for the most in career history, respectively.
Beard, Brown and Messer were each named to the 2015 SBC All-Tournament Team, the latter making the list for the second year in a row.
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