Tigers Aim to Follow in 2007 Squad's Footsteps at C-USA Championship
May 12, 2010
HOUSTON, Texas - Thursday, the University of Memphis softball team hopes for a similar result to the team's 2007 Conference USA Championship opening game.
The seventh seeded Tigers battle second seed Tulsa in the opening game of the 2010 C-USA Championship Tournament in Houston, Texas, at the Cougar Softball Stadium. The two teams will play at 11 a.m. in the single elimination tournament.
Memphis last played the Golden Hurricane in the tournament in 2007. The U of M won its final six games of the regular season to qualify for the tournament in Orlando, Fla., as the sixth seed and faced the third seed Tulsa in the opening game. Memphis won that game, 2-1, on a suicide squeeze in the seventh inning.
Like this season, the Tigers relied on pitching down the stretch as Jenna Kubesch led the team in the circle. Tulsa had swept the regular season series that year in Memphis by a combined score of 30-10. But after allowing a leadoff home run to start the C-USA tournament, Kubesch no hit TU the remainder of the game to help Memphis upset the Golden Hurricane.
"I think this seems kind of similar where we are going to have to manufacture runs against Tulsa," said Memphis head coach Windy Thees. "We just want our pitchers to really keep us in the game just like Jenna was able to a couple of years ago"
Unlike the 2007 season, the Tigers played well against Tulsa during the regular season this year and had a lead into the fifth inning of all three games on the road. TU had won all 12 of the previous regular season meetings, until this year.
Senior Vanessa Walle earned a 6-1 victory against Tulsa and had a pair of two-run home runs in the game. Memphis lost the other two games of the series after holding late leads on Tulsa comebacks in the sixth and seventh innings. The Tigers hit four home runs in the series, but also allowed four dingers in windy conditions.
Memphis will look to snap a season-long five game losing streak in the tournament and comes to Houston after being shutout in all three games to C-USA regular season champion East Carolina to end the regular season. The Tigers have been shutout in four-straight games leading into Thursday's game.
But the U of M brings the second best pitching staff in the conference and boasts three of the top seven pitchers in ERA in the league. Junior Lauren Carley (2-3) leads the team in ERA with a 1.51 mark and is second in C-USA. She is followed by all-conference freshmen team selection Carly Hummel (14-10, 1.78) in fourth and All-C-USA Second Team selection Vanessa Walle (8-12, 2.13) in seventh.
"We've got to depend on our pitching and defense to keep us in all of the games," Thees said. "Now we've got to really stay loose, focused and confident at the plate. Hitting is all about confidence, so we've got to go up there and know where are going to drive the ball and hit it every time."
If the Tigers beat Tulsa on Thursday, the rest of the championship bracket plays into the teams favor the remainder of the way to the Conference USA Championship game on Saturday. Memphis would play either No. 3 seed UCF or No. 6 seed UTEP in the semifinal game on Friday at 3 p.m. The Tigers split a doubleheader at UCF and won two of three games at home against UTEP. Memphis had a losing record against all four teams on the other side of the bracket this season.
Memphis will play in its fourth-straight C-USA Tournament and has won its opening game in all but one of the years. Last year, the ninth seeded Tigers lost to the eighth seeded UAB Blazers, 11-5, in the first game.
Tickets for the 2010 C-USA Softball Championship are just $25 for adult all-session books and $20 for youth all-session books. Single game tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for youth tickets. Students of C-USA schools receive free admission with a valid school ID.