Cambell throws shutout as No. 19 South Alabama wins consecutive SBC title
TROY, Ala. -- Hannah Campbell fired a complete-game shutout to lead 19th-ranked South Alabama to its consecutive Sun Belt Conference championship with a 2-0 victory in the finals against top-seeded WKU on Saturday at the Trojan Softball Complex.
Campbell (21-7), who was named SBC Tournament Most Outstanding Player for the second year in a row, did not allow a walk and struck out three for USA (45-7) while lowering her nation-leading ERA to 0.86. She picked up the win and did not allow a run in her last 18.1 innings in the circle for the tournament.
“[Saturday's game] was a complete team effort. Our defense took care of it and our hitters got in runs. I have to give it to them team because we all worked together to get this win,” Campbell said. “I just wanted to go out there and compete. I wanted to be aggressive, make my pitches and let the other team try to do what they can."
Mallorie Sulaski (12-8) earned the start for WKU (41-16) and allowed just two runs. She recorded the loss despite tossing a complete-game.
The Jaguars broke a scoreless game in the top of the fifth inning when SBC Player of the Year Brittany Fowler delivered an RBI double into the gap in left-center field to put USA ahead 1-0. The knock scored Emily Messer, who had singled up the middle and advanced to second on an error.
Fowler reached base in all four plate appearances as she finished the game two-for-two with a pair of walks.
SBC Freshman of the Year Haley Fagan led off the sixth frame with a single to center field. Stephanie Pilkington came in to pinch-run and advanced to third after a sacrifice bunt and a ground out to the right side. Alex Breeden came through with a clutch two-out RBI single to left field to score Pilkington and increase the Jaguars lead to 2-0.
Campbell retired the side in order in the seventh inning. She forced a ground out to third baseman Fagan for the first out, a foul out to catcher Karavin Dew for the second and registered a strikeout to end the game.
The victory extended USA’s winning-streak to 16 consecutive games.
“We said last year that we could beat anybody and that’s the attitude we had coming out here. Even if we play opponents ranked high, we will face them like they are any other team,” Campbell said.
Ciara Garcia, Katrina Metoyer and All-Conference First-Team honoree Olivia Watkins all finished two-for-three to highlight WKU’s lineup. Both teams tallied seven hits in the game.
“First of all, congratulations to Western Kentucky. That’s a great team with a great coaching staff who have done a great job,” seventh-year USA head coach Becky Clark said. “I’m so proud of our student-athletes and the amazing job that they’ve done. Hopefully this is just the first step. We are a very focused, hard-working group and hopefully will do great things in the next couple weeks.”
Between Campbell and sophomore Farish Beard, the Jaguars did not allow a run in the last 25.1 innings of the tournament and let up just one in the four games. Campbell threw an eight-inning no-hitter in USA’s 1-0 win against No. 21 Louisiana-Lafayette in the second round of SBC tournament.
“This tournament was definitely a grind. I didn’t think we were playing our best softball coming in as the layover affected us a little bit, but I have to give credit to the kids. They stuck in there, figured it out and did enough to get us through. All the credit goes to them,” Clark said.
USA earned an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament which begins on Thursday, May 30.