Julie Kernen homered and Bailey Erwin pitched a complete game, leading the Tulsa softball team to a 4-1 Senior Day win over Houston Sunday afternoon at the Collins Family Softball Complex.
The senior pitcher Erwin and senior first baseman Kernen, along with classmate outfielder Erica Sampson, were honored on the field following the game for their career accomplishments and contributions to the program. With Sunday's win, the Golden Hurricane improved to 30-17 overall and 9-6 in American Athletic Conference play.
Erwin (15-3) allowed just one walk and an unearned run on seven hits to pick up her 15th victory of the season. Kernen finished the game 2-for-3 and scored twice, including her solo home run in the fourth inning, and an insurance run in the fifth. Sophomore designated player Brittany Walker and freshman shortstop Shelby Estocado also scored a run for the Hurricane.
UH pitcher Shelby Miller (6-8) allowed two earned runs on five hits to take the loss for the Cougars (24-24, 9-5 American). Miller picked up a hit, and scored the only run of the game for Houston, which came in the top of the second inning.
Sunday's win allowed Tulsa to salvage a game in the series, after dropping a pair of heartbreakers on Saturday. TU lost the lead in the seventh inning twice in the doubleheader, but never looked back once it took the lead with three runs in the fourth inning on Sunday.
“One of the things we reminded the team is that we've been through adversity several times this year,” Tulsa Head Coach John Bargfeldt said. “Right before the game, I told them this game I told them: this game does not depend on what you did yesterday. You get a fresh start every time, and this is our chance to wipe a little bit of the bad feeling out of our mouths. They came out and did a great job today.
“Bailey pitched great today,” Bargfeldt continued. “She's been doing that in her starts the last few times out. She hit spots today, missed a lot of barrels, came up big when she needed to with runners on base for them, and held them to their lowest number of runs on the weekend. That was the key. We needed to keep them down, because quite frankly, our lineup was struggling a little bit all weekend. We had to scratch and claw and get some runs. Her keeping the runs down was really important.”
Houston took the early lead with a run in the top of the second inning. Miller singled up the middle to start the frame, and scored two batters later when a throw from shortstop sailed high and into the stands.
The Hurricane took advantage of a pair of Houston errors in the fourth inning to take a 3-1 lead. Kernen led off the frame with her 11th home run of the season, a towering solo shot to left field that tied the game. It was also her 28th career home run, good enough for fourth in program history, and her 55th RBI of the season – one shy of the school record.
Walker followed the home run by laying down a bunt, and reached second base on the play when the pitcher's throw got past first base. A sacrifice bunt by sophomore center fielder Maddie Withee put Walker on third, and freshman shortstop Shelby Estocado reached on a fielder's choice. The throw to plate on the play cut off Walker, but she made it back to third safely. Walker then scored on a wild pitch, making it 2-1. Estocado moved to third on an error that allowed junior left fielder Jodi Edmiston to reach first, and later scored on a passed ball.
Kernen poked a two-out single to right field in the fifth inning, moved around to third on Walker's base hit to right, and scored on a double steal when the throw went down to second base.
“We couldn't have done what we've done without them,” Bargfeldt said of the senior class. “They've been integral parts of this team for the last two years, with Bailey and Erica, and Julie just has been a mainstay in our lineup (for four years). They definitely will be sorely missed. Obviously it's not over yet, but they've had great careers. It's nice that, as they go out, they can have strong senior seasons, and every one of them is having a strong senior season.”
The Hurricane has four regular season games remaining, including one last home contest, Wednesday at 3 p.m. against Missouri State. TU then travels for its final conference series Saturday and Sunday at UConn.