Junior Jocelyn Sheffield tallied two RBI and scored a run, and senior Bailey Erwin pitched a complete game to lead the Tulsa softball team to a 5-2 win over Houston in the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Championship Friday afternoon at the UCF Softball Complex.
The Golden Hurricane (36-17) advances to the American Conference finals where it will face the winner of the semifinal between UCF and USF. The championship game will take place at noon CT Saturday on ESPN2. TU will play in the conference tournament championship game for the fourth time in the last five seasons, and the sixth time overall since 2006.
Erwin (18-3) struck out four batters and allowed two runs on five hits to pick up her 18th victory of the season. Houston starter Shelby Miller (7-10) allowed four runs, but two unearned runs, on six hits in 4.0 innings to take the loss for the Cougars (28-27).
Sheffield came off the bench to pinch hit in the second inning, and gave the Hurricane its first run with a two-out RBI double in the fourth inning to cut the deficit to 2-1. She scored the tying run later in the frame. Senior first baseman Julie Kernen, Sheffield and sophomore center fielder Maddie Witheeall had consecutive RBI in Tulsa's three-run fifth inning that made the score, 5-2.
"We hadn't put any runs on the board yet, and it was important to answer back right there, get those runs and get the game tied," Tulsa Head Coach John Bargfeldt said of Sheffield's two-out double in the fourth inning. "When people on the bench see hitters coming through, then their whole mentality changes, and it just snowballs and they just start feeding off each other. That's what happened in that (fifth) inning."
Houston scored both of its runs in the top of the third inning, taking a 2-0 lead. Left fielder Kaylin Crumpton reached on a fielder's choice and shortstop Selena Hernandez doubled, and both runners scored on a base hit to right field by Miller.
Tulsa tied the score with a pair runs in the bottom of the fourth. Kernen reached on a fielder's choice for the second out of the inning, and scored on Sheffield's double to the fence in right center. Sheffield scored the tying run when Maddie Withee reached on a throwing error from shortstop.
The Hurricane took a 5-2 lead with three runs in the fifth inning. Junior left fielder Jodi Edmiston singled to lead off the frame, and sophomore third baseman Maggie Withee and senior right fielderErica Sampson followed with infield singles to load the bases. Kernen then hit a one-out single back to the pitcher to score Edmiston, giving TU the 3-2 lead. Sheffield grounded to short, but the throw home was not in time, allowing Withee to score and keeping the bases loaded.Maddie Withee then singled up the middle to plate Sampson and make the score 5-2.
Erwin retired nine of the last 10 batters she faced over the final three innings, and sat down six straight Cougars in the sixth and seventh frames after Tulsa took the lead. Maggie Withee reached across the foul line to snag a line drive to end the fourth inning, and freshman shortstop Shelby Estocado leapt to snare a liner out of the air for the final out of the ballgame.