Softball: Wagner sets record, leads UH to win in C-USA Tourney
One shot from the bat of junior right fielder Laurie Wagner was all the Cougars needed to take out Memphis in the first round of the Conference USA softball tournament.
It was also all Wagner needed to capture a significant school record.
Wagner crushed a three-run homer off Tigers starter Kimber Bossom in the bottom of the first inning and the Cougars held on for a 9-1 win (in six innings) Thursday evening at Cougar Softball Stadium. The game ended early because of the eight-run rule.
The top-seeded Cougars (49-8) advance to the semifinals to face fifth-seeded East Carolina, a 7-2 winner over Marshall, at 4:30 p.m. today.
Wagner’s 18th homer of the season set a UH single-season record and tied the C-USA single-season record for homers. Her total eclipses the mark of 17 set by Kristen Glowacz in 2005.
"That was exciting for me," Wagner said. "I really appreciate all my coaches because they believed in me from the very beginning."
Wagner’s blast helped senior righthander Angel Shamblin earn her 22nd consecutive win. Shamblin (31-2) allowed one run on two hits and struck out five batters.
She surrendered a solo homer to Memphis’ Maddie McKinley in the third inning, but rebounded to retire the last 11 batters she faced.
"I was definitely upset about that," Shamblin said. "It shouldn’t have been a home run or a hit. I definitely made a mistake that I shouldn’t have, but I kind of had to move on from it. I couldn’t live in the past."
With the exception of Wagner, the Cougars’ batters were missing in action for the first five innings of Thursday’s contest. The Cougars had only three hits heading into the sixth inning.
The Cougars, however, would find a spark in the bottom of the sixth.
Memphis reliever Rayna McClinton walked three of the first four batters she faced in that frame to load the bases with out. Cougars freshman outfielder Jennifer Klinkert made her pay for that by crushing a 1-1 offering to left field for a grand slam that upped UH’s lead to 7-1.
"It felt real good," said Klinkert, who was named C-USA freshman of the year Wednesday. "I had a chance earlier with the bases loaded and didn’t come through. They served me up a pitch in that (last) at-bat, and I was just ready to hit one hard."
An error by Memphis second baseman Tori Gross allowed the Cougars to score two more runs before the game was called.
The late burst of offense doomed ninth-seeded Memphis (25-30), but Cougars head coach Kyla Holas would like to see the runs come much sooner in today’s game.
"We have got to manufacture runs, and we’ve got to do it from the first to the seventh inning," she said. "We can’t just produce in two innings of ball. Hopefully, we’ll be a little bit more focused and ready today."