April 21, 2011
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – The University of Memphis softball team will return to Conference USA action, this weekend, when it hosts UCF in a three-game, Easter Weekend series. It will be the Tigers’ first C-USA series since April 10, at Marshall.
The Tiger offense has started to come around over the last few weeks; since senior Heather Mott slid moved into the lead-off spot in the series finale against Houston, Memphis has hit .331 as a team, with 16 home runs (more than three C-USA foes, including UCF, have hit all season) and an average of 7.29 runs scored per contest.
Mott has been the catalyst for the offense, hitting a robust .512 clip and reaching base in all 14 contests since assuming the role of the lead-off hitter. She carries a team season best nine-game hitting streak into the weekend.
Newly-minted Memphis single-season home run champion Jessica Phillips is also on a tear, hitting .447 with seven big flies in the past 14 games. She slugged two home runs against Arkansas, including her school-record 13th on a sixth-inning grand slam against the Razorbacks.
The Knights have rounded into shape after a rough start to the season, and enter this contest as winners in five of their past six C-USA contests. UCF enters the weekend fresh from an 8-1 loss to 10th-ranked Florida.
Junior Natlie Land (.365 average, second-highest in C-USA) and senior Abby McClain (team-high seven home runs) pace the Knights offensively. Speed (71 team steals) counters a largely non-existent power game for the Knights, who have hit a mere 15 home runs as a team in 2011.
The pitching duties fall largely to senior Diana Rojas and junior Lacey Dinney. While Rojas paces the squad with a 2.95 ERA, Dinney leads the staff in wins (10) and strike outs (83); the Knights are last in Conference USA with 153 strikeouts.
In other news on Memphis softball, next week’s non-conference mid-week doubleheader at Tennessee Martin has been reduced to a single game, which will begin at 5 p.m. (CT).
Last Time Out
Both UCF and the Tigers played mid-week non-conference opponents from the SEC this week, with drastically different results. The Tigers thrashed Arkansas, 14-2, in Sherwood, Arkansas; Carly Hummel picked up her 16th victory in 2011, and Jessica Phillips became the school’s all-time single-season home run leader, smashing two homer’s for her 12th and 13th home runs in 2011. The win also gave Memphis two victories over the SEC in 2011. UCF fell to 10th-ranked Florida, 8-1, in Gainesville. Tawny Swan’s double drove in Tiffany Lane for the Knight’s lone run. Lacey Dinney pitched the complete game for UCF, taking her season’s eighth loss.
Last Year Against UCF
The Tigers split the regular-season series in Orlando with the Knights. After the series-opener was cancelled due to inclement weather, the Tigers got a combined shut-out from Vanessa Walle and Lauren Carley, while Maddie McKinley drove in the game’s lone run for a 1-0 Tiger win. Memphis dropped the second game in Florida, 2-1, despite a nine strike out performance from Carly Hummel. The Knights ended Memphis’ season at the C-USA Championships, with the Tigers dropping a 3-1 decision despite a McKinley home run and Hummel’s five innings of five-hit, one-run pitching.
Since sliding into the role of the lead-off hitter in the final game of the Houston series, senior Heather Mott has been on a tear. The Pensacola, Fla., product has batted .512 with with four home runs and 16 RBI, reaching base at least once in every contest. Mott started the season penciled into the No. 2 slot after leading off for much of last season. She currently sports a season- and Memphis-best nine-game hitting streak; if she gets a base knock in each of the first two games against UCF, she will equal her career-high at 11 straight games with a base hit.
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 15-4 record. Hummel is among the top pitcher’s in the conference in wins (15; fourth), ERA (1.41; fifth), strike outs (145, fourth), opposing batting average (.137, third) and runs allowed (28; tied for fourth) and leads Conference USA with three 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 ninth in the conference in ERA (1.80) and second in earned runs allowed (16). Meanwhile, senior Lauren Carley is tied for second in C-USA in hits allowed (51) and in runs allowed (22).
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 42 starts in her career, Hummel is 21-2 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 44 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. Against Arkansas, the Tigers exploded for eight first-inning runs, on the way to a 14-2 win. When scoring in the first inning this season, Memphis is 17-2 and 23-1 when scoring first in a game. The Tigers have scored the game-winning run in the first inning nine times this season.
Hummel Tosses Three No Hitters
Sophomore pitcher Carly Hummel tossed the sixth no hitter in program history on Feb. 11 at the FIU Combat Classic. After throwing four one-hitters in her freshman campaign, Hummel started her sophomore season with her first career no hitter. Hummel didn’t allow a hit through nine and two thirds innings pitched this season. She then added her second no hitter of the season and seventh in program history with an 8-0 victory in five innings at home against Mississippi Valley State. Hummel retired 11-straight, before allowing the only base runner in the game, a walk. Against TSU, Hummel struck out 13 batters in a five-inning no-hitter.
The home series against UCF 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. Memphis Media Relations will also provide All-Access video, for which a link will be provided at GoTigersGo.com.
The Tigers will travel to nearby Martin, Tenn., for a midweek, non-conference single game with Tennessee Martin, Wednesday, April 27. That differs from the original schedule, which had the Tigers playing two against the Skyhawks. The Tigers will follow that with a home series with current C-USA leader UAB, beginning with an April 30 doubleheader, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. (CT).