Aimee Creger pitched a two-hit shutout, and Jill Barrett and Erica Sampson delivered big RBI hits to lead Tulsa to the 2014 Conference USA Championship with an 8-0 (6 inn.) victory over Marshall Saturday afternoon at FAU Softball Stadium.
Barrett hit a two-run single and Sampson drilled a three-run double in a five-run fourth inning that gave the Golden Hurricane (50-7) a 6-0 lead. TU, which had plated a run in the first, added two scores in the bottom of the sixth to end the game.
Creger (27-1) struck out 12 batters in the game, and set a new C-USA Tournament record for strikeouts in a series. She punched out 33 batters in 19.0 innings over three games in the tournament. She also allowed just one run and six hits, as she earned all three victories for the Hurricane, earning the tournament Most Valuable Player award.
"The players were focused," Tulsa coach John Bargfeldt said. "They came out with intensity and they were ready to play. You could tell, right from the start. To go get a run right there in the first inning, I thought was huge. Then, Aimee got out of a jam early in the game. I thought it was just a matter of time before we were going to be able to put some good swings together. We did that in the fourth inning. Aimee did a great job of getting out of anything – any time they had a runner in any type of baserunning situation, she came up with big strikeouts."
Seniors Jill Barrett and Cierra Hughes, junior Erica Sampson and sophomore Catherine Horner joined Creger on the Conference USA Championship All-Tournament Team.
The C-USA Tournament Championship is the fourth for Tulsa. TU also won in 2006, 2009 and 2012. Combined with its five regular season titles, the Hurricane has claimed nine championships as a member of Conference USA.
TU earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Softball Selection Show will be televised Sunday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.
Tulsa plated a run in the first inning when Shelby Blanton doubled and scored on Julie Kernen's line drive single into center field.
After a pair of scoreless frames in which the Hurricane went down in order, Tulsa put up five runs in the bottom of the fourth to extend its lead to 6-0. Barrett's two run single and Sampson's three-run double provided the firepower.
Kernen led off the frame with a single into right center, and was followed by a walk to Hughes. After a sacrifice bunt by Jodi Edmiston, Maggie Withee reached on a bunt single to load the bases. Barrett then singled up the middle, scoring pinch runner Emma Horton and Hughes. Shelby Blanton was intentionally walked, and Sampson took advantage of the opportunity, lining a bases-clearing double to right center.
Barrett led off the sixth with a liner into right field and Blanton was hit by a pitch. A groundout advanced the runners to second and third. Barrett and Blanton then scored on consecutive wild pitches, ending the game.
For Marshall, right fielder Raquel Escareno and shortstop Morgan Zerkle each singled. Starter Jordan Dixon (20-21) pitched 3.2 innings and took the loss for the Thundering Herd (29-31).