The University of Memphis softball team (17-14, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) participated in their first conference play of the season against the ECU Pirates (19-13, 1-2 AAC). They won the series 2-1 and now will set their sights onto Murray State before they face another conference opponent in a three-game series against Tulsa.
A game of firsts
Several other benchmarks took place besides the Tigers’ first conference game. Unfortunately for the team, they suffered a 5-4 loss in extra innings after the Pirates scored in two out of the three final innings while shutting out the Tigers.
Despite the disappointing loss, the Tigers had impressive moments throughout the game. They came out strong in the first inning, had five hits at their first eight at bats and scored three runs.
Freshman first baseman Anna Grace Magee saw her first action of the season when she came in during the bottom of the seventh inning and pinched hit for shortstop Samantha Ibison.
Freshmen right fielder Gracie Morton and third baseman Sara Ann Davidson hit their first home runs of the season. Morton’s homer in the bottom of the first inning was her first of her career.
Tigers’ head coach Natalie Poole said she was proud of her player’s achievement and even teased Morton about when her first one would be coming.
“I was super proud,” Poole said. “Sara Ann has been super aggressive and has just missed some a few times. She has really good strike zone awareness, so I just felt like it was just a matter of time. It’s funny because I was talking to Gracie earlier this week about waiting for her to join the club, and she expressed how much she wanted to get her first homer. So I knew that she was going to go in trying to do it, and I’m really proud of her for it.”
A bounce back performance
Following the opening loss, the Tigers came into Saturday’s game with extra motivation and pulled out an impressive 8-0 victory in five innings. This was Memphis’ first shutout victory since their 1-0 March 6 victory against Central Arkansas.
Poole spoke to the media about what changed for the team between the first two games of the series and said it was a result of her team going in with a different attitude.
“What would you be willing to do to fight for us?” Poole said. “That’s what I asked them about in our pregame talk. I didn’t do it to add pressure, but I just wanted to put things into perspective and add some determination.”
Pitcher Mariah Nichols took heed to Poole’s message and had an impressive game. She faced 20 batters and allowed just two hits and struck out six batters. Poole said Nichols’ performance played a solid role in the team’s victory.
“Mariah pitched a good game,” Poole said. “She came out and looked sharp and gave us a chance to win the game.”
High scoring output continues
The Tigers ended the series against the Pirates with a 9-1 victory that ended in the sixth inning. This marked their second straight victory that came before the seventh inning.
This also continued their streak of dominant hitting in this series. They’ve outscored ECU 21-6 for the last three games and an even more impressive 17-1 in the team’s last two outings.
Excluding the late game collapse Friday, the Tigers showed just how much of an offensive force they can be when they’re focused and pitching is doing well.
They’ll face Murray State this Wednesday where they’ll have an opportunity to take a 2-1 advantage on them for the season. If they can maintain their productive hitting and take advantage of Murray State’s mistakes, they can get on a three game win streak and begin to establish themselves in the AAC.