Seniors Jessica Stoelke and Skylar Swanson combined for three RBI and three runs scored to lead Tulsa to an 11-0 (5 inn.) win over UTEP, clinching the three-game Conference USA sweep Sunday afternoon at the Collins Family Softball Complex.
The Golden Hurricane improved to 36-11 overall and 17-4 in C-USA play, holding onto its one-game lead in the league standings. TU plays a three-game series at second-place UAB next weekend.
The day began with the formal dedication of the complex and the locker room facility beyond the right field fence, and ended with the recognition of the two seniors for their contributions in four years with the program. The entire Collins family joined the Tulsa players on the field for pregame introductions. The family members, led by TU Trustee Susie Collins, wife of the late former TU Chairman of the Board of Trustees Fulton Collins, were presented with a customized Tulsa softball jersey.
Junior Lacey Middlebrooks was 2-for-2 with a home run, four RBI and two runs scored, and combined with sophomore Aimee Creger for the shutout. Middlebrooks (17-4) struck out five, walked two and scattered four hits in 4.0 innings to earn the win. Creger struck out two batters to close out the game in the fifth.
The Hurricane scored 11 runs on six hits and drew 11 walks in the game, scoring six runs in the first inning, two in the second and three runs in the third. UTEP starter Colleen Hohman (5-18) took the loss for the Miners (14-36, 3-21 C-USA).
In the first inning, Tulsa got a bunt base hit from sophomore third baseman Jill Barrett and an RBI single from Middlebrooks, and drew seven walks, sending 12 batters to the plate, to take a 6-0 lead.
Swanson led off the second inning with a walk and Middlebrooks blasted a home run onto 6th Street, her fourth homer of the season, to make the score, 8-0.
Consecutive walks to Barrett and Cobb began the third frame. Swanson loaded the bases with a long, high fly ball that was trapped against the fence by the center fielder and went for a single because the runners had to wait and see if it was caught. Middlebrooks then drew a walk, first baseman Shelby Blanton grounded an RBI single through the right side, and Stoelke hit a sacrifice fly to right field to give TU the 11-0 lead.
UTEP managed only a double in the first inning and a single in each of the second, third and fourth innings. The Miners put a runner on second base twice and third base only once before Middlebrooks and the TU defense shut down any threat of scoring. The Hurricane defense came up with some big plays, particularly by infielders Barrett and Cobb, making long or off-balance throws from deep in the hole. The second baseman Swanson went behind first base for one ground ball and made a back-handed flip to Blanton at first for the out.
Middlebrooks only allowed three batted balls to leave the infield all game. Only the double by center fielder Chelsea Troupe, a base hit to center field by left fielder Courtney Ware, and a fly out to left center cracked the infield.
The Golden Hurricane closes out the regular season with a three-game C-USA series at UAB May 5-6. The teams play a doubleheader Saturday beginning at 11:30 a.m., with a single game Sunday at 1 p.m. The first game of Saturday's doubleheader will be televised by Fox Sports Network.