Special to The Times-Georgian
OXFORD, Alabama — The University of West Georgia softball team had its run at the Gulf South Conference Tournament come to an end after a 2-2 record, but hope remains that there’s more games still to be played this season.
After eliminating No. 3 Alabama-Huntsville on Friday, May 7, the No. 5 Wolves fell to No. 6 Mississippi College in an 8-0, five-inning tussle.
The Wolves (25-16), who entered the weekend at No. 8 in the South Region rankings, still have an opportunity to land a spot in the NCAA Tournament following a pair of early tournament wins against West Florida and Alabama-Huntsville. The NCAA Tournament field will be unveiled on Sunday.
“I’m proud of the kids. They battled and battled and battled,” UWG head coach Al Thomas said. “There’s a lot of great teams that came over here that were done in just two games.”
No. 6 Mississippi College 8, No. 5 West Georgia 0
After cranking out eight runs on 12 hits against UAH on Friday afternoon, the UWG bats went silent in the evening. Meanwhile, the incredible effort from Morgan Goree ultimately caught up to the senior hurler in her third start in two days, including tossing 10 innings on Thursday, May 6, and taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning of Friday afternoon’s win over UAH.
Goree took on extra work due to an injury within the UWG pitching corps, and she more than left everything on the field.
“I’ll even go back a weekend ago when we were over at Mississippi College and we got beat in the bottom of the ninth. She just pitched unbelievable and then she comes here and plays West Florida, has another unbelievable outing. Just controls the game and went all 10 innings. Just crazy stuff,” Thomas said.
“She goes into the (UAH) game and combines for a one-hitter. Again, amazing. Morgan is a great strikeout pitcher, but this weekend she also placed the ball in some great spots and the kid that’s got the bat just couldn’t do anything with it. Our defense backed her, and I couldn’t ask for a pitcher to do any more than what she has done in her last three starts.”
West Georgia had just two hits in Friday’s finale — singles from seniors Cassie Henderson and Kayla Hughes — while a tough outing defensively resulted in five unearned runs between Goree and senior pitcher Lexi Close.
Mississippi College (21-20) had a pair of four-run frames — the third and fifth — to take the lead, extend it and, ultimately, end the game early.
No. 5 West Georgia 8, No. 3 Alabama-Huntsville 0
In the opening game on Friday, Goree had a no-hitter through five innings until UAH right fielder Shelby Booker connected for a leadoff single in the bottom of the sixth. After eclipsing the 100-pitch count again upon getting the first out of the sixth inning, Thomas summoned Close from the bullpen to relieve his senior workhorse.
Goree, who fired 171 pitches in the 10-inning thriller on Thursday, tallied 101 pitches in 5.1 shutout frames on Friday against the Chargers (31-12), yielding just the one hit with four walks and 10 strikeouts.
Close worked the final 1.2 innings to seal the deal, yielding no runs on no hits with one walk and three strikeouts.
With Goree dealing in the circle, her offense was doing its part in the box, scoring eight runs on 12 hits with five walks, sparked by smashing home a trio of runs right out of the gate courtesy of a three-run bomb by Henderson.
The Wolves stretched the lead to 4-0 in the third after sophomore second baseman Kristyn Nix doubled and scored on an RBI sacrifice bunt by senior center fielder Hannah Scarbrough.
West Georgia kept its foot on the gas with two more runs in the fifth behind back-to-back RBI doubles from Scarbrough and sophomore left fielder Chandler Mevis and Henderson continued her solid day at the plate with an RBI base knock in the sixth.
Nix drove home the final run of the game for the Wolves on an RBI single in the top of the seventh.
Scarbrough (2-for-3, 2B, run, 2 RBI), Henderson (2-for-4, HR, 4 RBI), Mevis (2-for-4, 2 2B, RBI) and Nix (2-for-4, BB, 2B, 2 runs, RBI) all had multiple-hit efforts for West Georgia, while senior shortstop Alley Taylor reached base four times from the leadoff spot with a single and three walks.
No. 5 West Georgia 5, No. 4 West Florida 3 (10 innings)
There was high drama at Choccolocco Park for the opening round of the GSC Tournament on the afternoon of May 6.
After the No. 4 Argos (30-14) rallied with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings, the No. 5 Wolves responded resiliently behind an incredible pitching performance from Goree to secure the 10-inning thriller.
Goree tossed all 10 frames to earn the win, firing those 171 pitches in the process and yielding three runs on eight hits with four walks and eight strikeouts. She pitched out of bases-loaded jams in the seventh and ninth innings to keep the game alive, allowing the UWG offense to rise to the occasion in the 10th.
After the Argos left the bags loaded in the bottom of the ninth, the Wolves scored the game-winning run and added a key insurance run in the top of the 10th.
West Georgia started the 10th-inning rally behind back-to-back singles from Nix and Hughes.
From there, the Wolves executed some small ball, using a sacrifice bunt from Henderson to put runners on second and third and Scarbrough plated Nix with an RBI bunt to third. In the next at-bat, sophomore pinch-runner Sydney Seymour scored on a wild pitch for the two-run lead.
Goree would slam the door shut in the home half of the 10th to send the Wolves into a second-round matchup with top-seeded Auburn Montgomery.
Offensively, senior right fielder Madison Slappey (3-for-4, 2B, run, 2 RBI), Nix (3-for-5, run) and Mevis (3-for-5, 2 runs) accounted for nine of UWG’s 12 hits.
No. 1 Auburn Montgomery 10, No. 5 West Georgia 0
West Georgia freshman Kaley Dowdy got summoned to the circle in Thursday’s nightcap due to an injury, and she held her own against the No. 1 team in the conference after only pitching one inning all season.
Dowdy kept the Wolves in the game by tossing two innings and yielding two earned runs before turning things over to Close.
Close continued to keep the contest within reach until the Warhawks busted the game open in the late innings, as AUM scored seven runs over the final three frames to pull away.
Nix, who went 3-for-5 in the tourney opener against West Florida, continued swinging a hot bat by delivering a 2-for-3 effort against AUM with a double.
The Warhawks (39-5) went on to win the GSC Tournament title with an 8-2 victory over No. 6 Mississippi College on Saturday to earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament and extend their winning streak to 19 in a row.