The 2014 Conference USA Softball Championship, hosted by Florida Atlantic, will be held Thursday-Saturday, May 8-10, in Boca Raton, Fla.
The championship opens Thursday with an 11 a.m. EDT matchup between No. 2-seed UAB (15-8 C-USA) and No. 7-seed Marshall (13-11 C-USA). After starting the season 3-8, the Blazers have found their stride and finished the regular season with a 31-24 overall record. The Herd is coming off of a series sweep of Louisiana Tech to earn one of the eight coveted tournament berths. The teams did not meet during the regular season.
A surging FIU (15-9 C-USA) squad earned the No. 3 seed in the championship after winning six consecutive games, taking 3-0 series victories over North Texas and Southern Miss. The Panthers square off in Thursday’s 1:30 p.m. EDT time slot against No. 6-seed East Carolina (14-10). Infielder Kristi Oshiro paces the Pirate offense, batting .356 with 47 hits and 33 RBI in 132 at-bats. FIU took the season series against East Carolina two games to one.
No. 19 Tulsa (19-4 C-USA) won the regular-season title and is the No. 1 seed for the championship. The Golden Hurricane face No. 8-seed Charlotte (10-13 C-USA) Thursday at 4 p.m. EDT. TU swept the 49ers, 3-0, in the season series between the two teams behind solid work in the circle from staff Aimee Creger, Bailey Erwin and Caitlin Sill. The Niners are led by Lexi Betancourt who boasts a 19-14 mark, 2.33 ERA and has tossed 25 complete games.
Host Florida Atlantic (15-9 C-USA) earned the No. 4 seed and will face No. 5-seed North Texas (14-9 C-USA) in the nightcap. The Owls, who have won eight of their past nine outings in league play, are led by pitcher Samantha Messer‘s 15-6 mark and 1.50 ERA. The Mean Green is coming off one of its most impressive outings of the season, dealing then-No. 18 Tulsa its only series loss of the season. Shortstop Brooke Foster crushed two home runs, including a walk-off grand slam, four hits and registered six RBI in the series. Florida Atlantic and North Texas did not meet during the regular season.
For complete championship information, including game times, live stats and live streaming, please visit the softball championship central page on ConferenceUSA.com.
C-USA AWARDS ANNOUNCED THIS WEEK
The All-Conference USA Softball team and specialty award winners will be announced on Wednesday by the league office. On Thursday, the 12-woman C-USA All-Academic Team will be released. Please check ConferenceUSA.com for all of the latest softball news.
TULSA’S SHUTDOWN PITCHING
The Tulsa pitching staff has shutdown opponents this season, ranking fifth in the NCAA and topping the league in team ERA (1.58). TU also sets the league standard in team opponent batting average, holding hitters to .184 in 360.0 innings of action. The Golden Hurricane boast the top two individuals in ERA (Bailey Erwin 1.32, Aimee Creger 1.34) as well as two of the top four in opponent batting average (Creger .138, Caitlin Sill .211).
Creger is second in the nation averaging 11.9 strikeouts per seven innings pitched. She bests all league pitchers and is No. 2 nationally with 293 strikeouts on the season, and has fanned 10 or more batters in 16 of her 28 starts. The C-USA Preseason Pitcher of the Year tossed a no-hitter, registering 17 Ks and only one walk, Feb. 28 against Creighton. She threw her second no-no of the season March 30 vs. UTEP, striking out 12 and walking one, and added her third no-hitter of the year on April 26 against Middle Tennessee.
C-USA’S ELITE HITTERS
UTSA junior Megan Low belts an average of 0.44 home runs per game (22 HR in 50 GP) to lead all Division I hitters. The catcher/first baseman is tied for the most home runs in the country and is sixth nationally with a .901 slugging percentage. Low has notched four multi-home run games this season, including three long bombs against Texas State on April 9.
Tulsa senior infielder and C-USA Preseason Player of the Year Jill Barrett ranks 12th in the nation with a .453 (87-for-192) batting average.
FIU head coach Jake Schumann claimed his 400th career victory on March 23 with a win at C-USA adversary UAB. North Texas head coach Tracey Kee reached the 700-career win plateau with a series sweep of Middle Tennessee to open conference play March 8-9. Charlotte’s Aimee DeVos achieved a career milestone as well this season, earning her 500th career W against FIU on March 8. Earlier this year, Tulsa head coach John Bargfeldt earned his 300th win, all with the Golden Hurricane, in just his ninth season at the helm.
TULSA RANKED NO. 19 IN THE NATION
The Golden Hurricane is ranked No. 19 in both the USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 and the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll, and is No. 24 in the NCAA RPI. Tulsa won the Conference USA regular season title with a 19-4 league record and a 47-7 overall mark. TU has defeated two ranked opponents on the season, topping No. 19 Louisville, 3-0, on Feb. 8 and No. 8 Texas A&M, 5-2, on Feb. 16. All but one of the Hurricane losses have come on the road, including a 1-0 decision at No. 19 Oklahoma on March 9.