April 12, 2011
, Tenn. - The University of Memphis softball team will go on hiatus from the Conference USA schedule this week, with two Ohio Valley Conference foes on the docket. The Tigers will host Tennessee State, Wednesday, in a doubleheader at the Tiger Softball Complex, beginning at 2 p.m.
The U of M is riding a four-game winning streak into its conference break, taking two apiece from SWAC opponent Alabama State as well as C-USA rival Marshall last week. A Tiger offense that entered last week hitting a mere .203 pushed its collective average up nearly 30 points while averaging nine runs per game last week.
The visiting Tigers limp into the match-up as losers of five of their last six, and have only been victorious twice away from Nashville this season. While not a bad hitting squad (.244 as a team, with Tedra Alford leading at .342), the Tigers are giving up 5.82 earned runs per game and averaging better than an error per contest.
The Memphis pitching staff is still one of the more dominant groups of arms in the conference, led by 14-game winner Carly Hummel, who owns a microscopic ERA (1.48) and opposing batting average (.143) while striking out nearly nine batters per contest.
Junior Jessica Phillips enters the doubleheader with 11 home runs, tied for second-most all-time. She'll have an outside chance at setting the record, which she is two more home runs away from setting, against a Tennessee State staff that has given up an OVC-leading 42 home runs this season.
Last Meeting with TSU
The U of M hasn't met TSU since 2008, but are 3-3 all-time against the visiting Tigers. Memphis has dropped three straight to TSU, including an April 2, 2008 doubleheader in Nashville that TSU took 4-0 and 3-2. Kailey Kassner, then just a freshman, homered and doubled in the game two loss.
Memphis Sweeps Marshall in Two Games
Memphis took both conference games at Marshall, last weekend, to improve to 25-10 (8-6 C-USA). In the first game Saturday, the Tigers piled on 10 runs in a 10-3 romp for Carly Hummel's 14th win of the season. Jessica Phillips hit her season's 11th home run in the game, which was delayed five hours due to weather. The second game was pushed to Sunday due to darkness, and the Tigers won it, 7-4, behind 5.2 innings of three-hit relief work by Lauren Carley for the win. Maddie McKinley and Kailey Kassner homered to give Memphis its 25th win, equaling last season's total. The third game of the series was cancelled due to time constraints and will not be made up.
Memphis Dominates Alabama State
The Tigers scored 19 runs in two games, more than they had achieved in their previous four, to sweep a mid-week doubleheader with SWAC foe Alabama State, April 6. In the first game, Carly Hummel struck out 14 batters and Jessica Phillips slammed her team-leading 10th homer of the season to give the Tigers and easy 7-0 victory. In the second game, The Tigers put on a hitting clinic, with 12 of their 15 knocks going for extra bases. Kamri Chester and Maddie McKinley each earned two triples in the game, tying the school record, and Heather Mott hit the program's first-ever inside-the-park home run. Ellen Roberts pitched the complete game, striking out five, and hit the game-ending double to run-rule the Hornets.
Already, the 2011 season has been a series of close games. Memphis has already played 13 games decided by one run, going 9-4 in those contests; nine one-run victories leads Conference USA this season. Last season, Memphis was involved in 16 games decided by a run (31.4 percent) and 36 by three runs or less (70.6 percent). The Tigers were 7-9 in one-run games last year and 15-21 in games decided by three runs or less.
Hummel Among C-USA Leaders
Carly Hummel is proving that her snub during pre-season all-conference voting was an oversight, starting the season off with a stellar 14-4 record. Hummel is among the top pitcher's in the conference in wins (14; fourth), ERA (1.48; sixth), strike outs (132, fourth), opposing batting average (.143, third) and runs allowed (28; tied for seventh) and owns two of Conference USA's six no-hitters this season. She is also one of two pitchers (Houston's Donna Bourgeois) to have two wins over top-25 opponents this season.
While Hummel is the ace of the Tiger pitching staff, Coach Thees' other pitchers are quietly putting together an impressive year. Senior Janelle Valle is eighth in the conference in ERA (1.67) and second in earned runs allowed (14). Meanwhile, senior Lauren Carley is tied for fourth in C-USA in hits allowed (49) and is third in runs allowed (22).
Better Late Than Never
The Tiger offense has produced 25 sixth-inning runs in 35 games and those 25 runs have come in handy. Memphis tied DePaul with a two-run sixth and rallied with four runs in the sixth against FIU to tie, but dropped both games. At the Panther Invitational, Memphis used the sixth inning to earn three victories. Memphis used one-run sixth innings to post victories over Appalachian State and Lipscomb. A three-run sixth helped the Tigers top Georgia State after trailing 2-0 entering the bottom of the sixth inning. Against Stanford, Jessica Phillips' sixth-inning home run proved to be the difference in the Tigers upset of the 16th-ranked Cardinal. A five-run sixth inning run-ruled UTEP in the Tigers finale with the Miners, while a sixth-inning run in game one of that road series tied the score at three. Kailey Kassner's three-run sixth-inning home run against Marshall proved to be the difference in that contest.
Three Is The Magic Number
When Carly Hummel steps in the pitching circle as a starter, all she needs is three runs of support. With 34 starts in her career, Hummel is 19-2 when the Tiger offense puts three or more runs on the board. Her only losses in which the Tigers scored three or more runs came against Tulsa on March 27 and 28 of 2010.
Memphis has scored 35 first-inning runs this season. The Tigers topped North Florida 3-0 to open the season and all three runs came in the first inning. After scoring one run in the first against Ohio State, the U of M scored two runs off a Maddie McKinley two-run shot to take an early lead against Kentucky. Memphis scored four runs in the first inning in both games of the doubleheader against Alabama A&M. The Tigers got on the board first against Stanford as well. In the finale against UTEP, Heather Mott led off the first with a home run, then Maddie McKinley followed two batters later with a two-run job. When scoring in the first inning this season, Memphis is 15-2 and 20-1 when scoring first in a game. The Tigers have scored the game-winning run in the first inning six times this season.
Conference Championship Tickets on Sale Now
Tickets for next month's C-USA Softball Championships went on sale April 12. The event, hosted by East Carolina, will be at the Pirates brand-new softball facility, May 12-14, in Greeneville, North Carolina. For ticket information, click here.
Wednesday's doubleheader against Tennessee State can be followed through live stats provided by CBS College Sports GameTracker. Live chat provided by Memphis Media Relations will also be available for each game. Links to the live chat and GameTracker can be found at GoTigersGo.com. All-Access video coverage can be found at gotigersgo.com
Continuing the conference week off, Memphis will travel to Murray State for a Friday doubleheader with the Racers. The doubleheader is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. and will allow the Tigers a rare in-season weekend off before resuming C-USA play with a home series against UCF, next weekend. The Tigers will also take on Arkansas, next Tuesday, in Little Rock.