College softball: Middle Tennessee State wins its first-ever Conference USA tournament championship
CHARLOTTE, N.C. –– The Middle Tennessee softball team won its first C-USA Tournament Championship on Saturday afternoon. The Raiders came from behind for the second time in as many days to defeat Florida Atlantic, 7-6.
The Blue Raiders advance to the NCAA Regional with the win for just the second time in program history.
Middle is the lowest seed to advance to a C-USA title game since 2009 and the lowest seed to ever claim a league championship. The Raiders entered the weekend as the No. 6 seed.
The Raiders' 39 wins are the most since 2001, when the squad won 41 games.
This is MT's second conference championship in program history; the 2000 squad won the Ohio Valley Conference Championship.
Both teams grabbed a run in the first inning. For the Raiders, Precious Birdsong walked, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and then stole home. She was waved safe on an obstruction call.
Florida Atlantic evened the score at one apiece in similar fashion. Emily Lochten walked, stole a base and scored on a single down the left field line.
The game remained knotted at ones until the Middle broke the game open in the top of the fifth. Kirstyn Cuccia led off with a single up the middle and Keely McGee followed with a walk. Summer Burgess loaded the bases by reaching on an error by the third baseman. Then for the second time in the tournament, the Raiders hit a grand slam. Kristin Uselton delivered the blast, her third of the season, over the left field fence. The clutch bomb put MT ahead, 6-1.
Morgan Harris kept the rally alive by following that up with a double down the left field line. Danielle Munoz put the Raiders up, 7-1 by scoring Harris on a single to right field.
The Owls started their come back in the next half inning. With two outs, Alex Miller reached base on a single to right field. Then Lochten hit a two-run home run to cut the MT lead to 7-3.
FAU struck for more runs in the sixth. Three singles loaded the bases for the Owls and Miller followed with a double to right field made it a 7-5 game. Then Madisyn Palmer put a bloop single into the infield that made it a one-run ballgame. A fly out to right field got MT out of the inning, preserving the lead.
The Owls had a leadoff single to start the bottom of the seventh, putting the winning run at the plate. Gretchen Greer delivered in the circle for the second game in a row. The senior struck out two and forced Jolie Duffner to fly out to Cuccia in right field for the final out.
The win was the fifth of the tournament for the Raiders as they went undefeated at the Tournament.
Cori Jennings got the win in the circle and Greer was credited with the save.
The championship also secured MT five spots on the All-Tournament team including a Tournament MVP award for Jennings.