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Monday, August 21, 2017

Softball

AAC leaders to duel in Tulsa series


Winners of four of their last five, the Cougars head to Tulsa for a chance at conference dominance. | File photo/The Cougar

After sweeping UConn over the weekend, the Cougar softball team looks to continue their winning ways as they head to Tulsa for a three-game series.

The series features a match-up of the top two teams in the AAC. Both the Cougars (20-17) and the Golden Hurricane (26-13) are tied for first in the conference at 5-1.

Throughout the season, the Cougars have been a streaky team.  The high-powered offense has caught fire, including a conference-record 22-0 shutout of the Huskies. They enter the series winners of four of their last five, their best stretch since an eight-game winning streak earlier this season.

The Cougar offense ranks second in the conference in several categories: batting average (.295), slugging percentage (.438), home runs (29), RBIs (180) and runs scored (200). Additionally, they hold the top on base percentage (.386).

Individually, sophomore outfielder Maya Thomas has maintained her success at the plate with a .449 batting average, good enough for second highest in the AAC. Alongside Thomas is senior pitcher/utility fielder Shelby Miller, who leads the conference with 40 RBIs and has the team-lead in home runs (9).

Another consistent spark to the offense is freshman utility fielder Arielle James, whose .387 clip at the plate ranks at sixth in the conference.

As the old adage goes: Offense wins games; defense wins championships. The pitching rotation and defense have begun to find their groove. In the last eight games, opponents have only managed to score four or more runs twice.

Starting pitchers sophomore Savannah Heebner (9-6, 2.16 ERA) and freshman Trystan Melancon (9-6, 2.46 ERA) have led the charge for the rotation. Heebner won twice and Melancon won once against the Huskies, with both pitching a complete game.

Heebner allowed only two hits in each game and helped her cause by hitting two homers in Sunday’s game, including a grand slam.

Melancon fanned nine batters in her win, upping her strikeout total to 72 on the season. Melancon boasts the No. 7 ERA in the conference, while Heebner sits pretty at No. 2. When given the chance, the bullpen has been solid, with sophomore relief pitcher Presley Bell picking up a save on Sunday.

The first game of the series is scheduled to start at 5 pm. Thursday at Collins Family Softball Complex in Tulsa, with game two scheduled for 5 pm. Friday and game three at noon Saturday.

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