Sophomore second baseman Kaitlyn Griffith went 3-for-3 with two doubles, a home run and three RBI to pace No. 18/19 University of South Alabama softball to a 5-1 win over Troy in the Jaguars’ Sun Belt Conference Tournament-opening victory on Wednesday night at Troy Softball Complex.
Two-seeded USA (42-7) will move on to face three-seed Louisiana at Lafayette, who defeated FIU in extra innings on Wednesday, at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow. The contest will be a rematch of last year’s championship, a game USA won to capture it’s first-ever tournament title.
Radio broadcast featuring play-by-play will be available free of charge via the All-Access link found on the university’s athletics webpage, USAJaguars.com. Live stats for all South Alabama softball games are available through the multimedia section at USAJaguars.com. For live video, live stats for all tournament games, ticket information and more, visit the Tournament Central link listed above.
USA came out swinging in its first competitive contest in nearly two weeks, nabbing all five of its runs on seven hits in the first three innings. Starter Hannah Campbell struck out five and allowed only one run (earned), as the owner of the nation’s best ERA (0.94) secured her 19th victory of the season.
The Jaguars outhit Troy, 9-5, in the contest, moving to 2-0 against the Trojans (20-31) this year, after run-ruling the club by a 9-0 scoreline at Jaguar Field in April behind Farish Beard’s first career no-hitter. USA outscored the Trojans, 14-1, in the two affairs and outhit them, 20-5.
South Alabama moved to 8-8 all-time in SBC Tournament play with Wednesday’s win, which marked the first USA/Troy postseason meeting. The Jaguars now lead the all-time series with Troy, 12-8. USA is now 4-2 in league tournament openers, and 5-0 in as many contests as a number-two seed.
USA’s 42nd win marked the most the program has ever recorded in a season.
Consecutive two-out singles in the bottom of the first from all-SBC First-Team selection Julie Moss and SBC Freshman of the Year Haley Fagan set the table for Griffith, a first-team at-large pick, who watched on pitch go by before crushing her ninth homer of the year off the top of the Trojans scoreboard for an early 3-0 Jaguar advantage.
Two innings later, Fowler and Johnson tacked on two more USA runs after Troy’s Jaycee Affeldt was inserted for starter Michaela Hamilton. Fowler led off the frame with a double to left center and scored on Blair Johnson’s outfield single that Troy’s right fielder mishandled. Johnson then rounded home on a Trojan passed ball to make it 5-0.
Host pinch-runner Madison Rich scratched a run across in the top of the fourth after a Caitlin Ortiz walk and back-to-back singles from Rachel Rigney and Taylor Smartt, but H. Campbell settled back in and retired nine of the final 11 Trojan batters to seal the victory.
“It was our goal tonight to be pressure on Troy early, and I thought we did a good job of that,” said USA head coach Becky Clark. “Griffith’s home run at the start of the game was huge; it really set the tone. We used the middle of the field for some big hits. Hannah did a great job of throwing strikes, and the defense played great behind her.
“You always want to get the first one behind you, and I thought our kids did a great job in doing that, especially coming off a two-week layoff,” she concluded.
For more information about South Alabama athletics, check back with www.usajaguars.com, and follow the Jaguars at www.twitter.com/USAJaguarSports. Season tickets for all Jaguar athletic events can be purchased by calling (251) 461-1USA (1872).