Senior Aimee Creger struck out 13 batters in a one-hitter to lead 19th-ranked Tulsa to a 1-0 victory over Charlotte in the first round of the 2014 Conference USA Championship Thursday afternoon at FAU Softball Stadium.
The Golden Hurricane (48-7) scored the game's only run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Sophomore catcher Catherine Horner hit a sacrifice fly to left center, plating senior shortstop Jill Barrett for the walkoff win.
Creger improved her record to 25-1, tying her own school single season wins benchmark. She also won 25 games in 2013. With her 13 strikeouts Thursday, Creger has now totaled 306 strikeouts this season. With 48 wins, Tulsa matches its program-best victory total, previously accomplished in 2002. That squad finished the season year 48-16.
Lexi Betancourt (19-15) struck out six and walked three in a complete-game effort to take the loss for the 49ers (20-29).
The Hurricane advances to the semifinal round of the C-USA Championship. TU will play the winner of Florida Atlantic and North Texas at 3:30 p.m. CT Friday.
"We knew that was an all-conference-type pitcher (for Charlotte) and we figured it was going to be tough to get some runs. I felt like we swung at some pitches out of the zone early in the game, but thankfully we had a pitcher that could go out there and throw some zeroes," Tulsa coach John Bargfedt said. "I think that game was important for Aimee. Last weekend she had a little blister or a raw place on her finger. It was important for her to go out there and feel like she could pitch again the way she has been all season. She got ahead of most of the hitters, and was tough to hit."
Creger allowed no hits through four frames. The only ball of the 49ers bats that reached the outfield all game was the leadoff single in the fifth by catcher Jackie Kleinsmith. Creger allowed just one walk, which came in the third inning. Neither baserunner advanced to the second base. Following the base hit, Creger retired the final nine batters of the game, striking out five of them.
Barrett led off the bottom of the seventh with a base hit up the middle, her second hit of the game. Senior second baseman Shelby Blanton reached on a fielder's choice, and Barrett was safe at second on an error. Junior left fielder Erica Sampson bunted the runners to second and third, and Horner lofted a fly ball to drive home Barrett.
Tulsa, which tallied six hits in the game, put a runner in scoring position in the four previous innings before breaking through in the seventh. TU had runners at second and third with one out in the fourth inning, and a runner at second with one out in the sixth. The Hurricane left 10 runners on base in the contest.