Memphis Hosts DH with 2009 SWAC Champion MVSU
Oct. 8, 2009
MEMPHIS - A week ago, the Memphis softball team earned a pair of shutouts against the Southwestern Athletic Conference's Alcorn State to open the fall exhibition schedule. The Tigers plan to build on the victories Friday against a perennial NCAA Tournament qualifier.
The University of Memphis will host a doubleheader with Mississippi Valley State beginning at 5 p.m. on Friday at the Tiger Softball Complex. Admission is free to the event.
This weekend's match-up had originally been scheduled as a three-team tournament, but Western Kentucky withdrew as a result of a threat for inclement weather on Friday. Memphis had been scheduled to play WKU at 3 p.m. The schedule change provided the opportunity for the Tigers to play two games against MVSU.
Last season, the Memphis pitching staff had a combined ERA of 3.67 and an average of 3.9 strikeouts per seven innings. The Tigers finished seventh out of nine teams in Conference USA in pitching.
But with the return of the squad's top two hurlers from 2009, Vanessa Walle and Janelle Valle, and the addition of freshman Carly Hummel, the U of M tossed back-to-back shutouts last week against Alcorn State. The three pitchers combined for 25 K's in 14 innings in the two games, an average of 12.5 strikeouts per seven innings.
Walle and Hummel combined for a 3-0 no-hitter in game one with 14 K's, which is one more than the Memphis regular season single game strikeout record in a seven-inning game.
"Vanessa really set the tone for us early on (against Alcorn State)," said Memphis head coach Windy Thees. "She just didn't let anybody line her up. I don't think anybody hit a ball hard of her all day.
"They (the pitching staff) threw where we wanted them to throw, and they did really well on hitting their spots," Thees added. "I think all three of the girls did a good job of working the pitches around the zone. I think we're getting smarter as a pitching staff, and in that sense, I really like what we did on the mound."
Despite starting out slow, the Memphis bats also picked up the slack in game two scoring six runs, including a five-run second inning. Junior third baseman Maddie McKinley led the team with four hits in the two games, including a three-run homer in game two.
Mississippi Valley State earned its sixth-straight SWAC Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009. The Devilettes finished 38-16 last season and 17-0 in league competition.
"Mississippi Valley State goes to the regional championship every year," Thees said. "They are a very strong program. I think these are going to be two really important games against a Division I opponent this fall."
MVSU led its league in batting with a .322 average and 34 home runs as well as in pitching with a 3.00 ERA and 278 K's in 338 innings. The Devilettes were ranked second in the nation in 2009 in scoring (6.67 runs per game) and fourth in batting average.
The fall exhibition schedule will give both teams a chance to see one another before the programs face off during the 2010 regular season in a doubleheader at Memphis on March 30.
Following this weekend's games, the Tigers will have two more opportunities for fans to see the 2010 team in action during the fall. Memphis will host a three-team tournament on Saturday, October 17, against Union (Tenn.) and Northwest Mississippi Community College. The U of M will close with a Blue and Grey Scrimmage on Saturday, October 31, and will host a free one hour softball clinic for children 12 and under after the scrimmage.
Fans can follow Friday's doubleheader with Mississippi Valley State live online through CBS College Sports' GameTracker. A link to the live stats can be found at GoTigersGo.com.