Nashville, Tenn. – A-Sun Freshman of the Year Jamie Ujvari and fellow first team all-conference member Meredith Barnes led the USC Upstate softball team to a 5-1 victory over Stetson in the Spartans' first game of the 2013 A-Sun Tournament at Draper Diamond Thursday morning.
Ujvari went the distance and improved to 18-3 on the year with the victory. She allowed one run on four Stetson hits with six strikeouts. Barnes scored the first run of the day and drove in the second to set the pace for Upstate. The Spartans also used a three-run sixth to distance itself from the Hatters, while turning in stellar defense.
"I was just excited to start hitting again," said Barnes. "We haven't played any competition in two weeks, so I wanted to go out there and give everything I had. As a team, scoring the runs in the sixth was big. It gave us our confidence back getting some hits against a good pitcher. Hopefully that will set us up for the rest of the tournament."
Upstate improved to 38-9 on the year with the win and will face No. 4 Lipscomb, who claimed a 3-1 victory over No. 1 North Florida Thursday, Friday at 12:30 p.m. Stetson fell to 31-21 on the year.
"We struggled after not playing for two weeks and had a lot of rust to knock off," said Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins. "I'm really proud of how we played the game today. Getting our bunts down, executing the squeeze, getting good swings with two strikes were all things we did well today. Our defense was great and we got good pitching. The good thing about winning this game is that it puts all of the confidence we had lost back in ourselves. I think this is going to make us a lot more confident and will jump start us."
Shaking off the rust of not playing for 15 days (April 24 at ETSU), Upstate and starting pitcher Ujvari (Niceville, Fla.) looked good in the top of the first. Ujvari got two fly outs to left and a strikeout to set the Hatters down in order.
Upstate generated some offensive to take the early lead in the bottom of the first. Barnes (Salem, Ore.) led off the inning with a double to left and advanced to third with on a wild pitch. One out later, fellow first team all-conference selection Shellie Robinson (DeLand, Fla.) singled to left to drive in the game's first run.
Ujvari was in control early in the game. She allowed a base runner in the second and then a double with two outs in the third, but got out of the innings with a double play and a strikeout.
Stetson, which busted out of the gate Wednesday with 14 runs on 12 hits in its 14-6 victory over Florida Gulf Coast, tied the game in the top of the fourth. With two outs, Demi Meza hit a solo home run to left center to knot the game at 1-1.
After allowing a run in the first inning, Stetson starter Meredith Owen (22-9) settled in and limited Upstate at the plate. Owen recorded three consecutive three-up, three-down innings in the second, third and fourth innings.
After Owen retired 11 straight batters, Kendall Settlemyre (Hickory, N.C.) led off the bottom of the fifth with a single through the right side to end Owen's streak. She moved over to second on Marche Llanos' (Kapolei, Hawaii) sacrifice bunt and scored on Barnes' RBI single up the middle to give the Spartans a 2-1 lead. Settlemyre's single ended up setting the tone for a monster inning for the Spartans in the sixth.
The Upstate bats gave Ujvari a lot of insurance in the bottom of the sixth. Robinson led off the inning with a triple and with one out and runners on second and third, first team all-conference selection Maddison Kieffer (Middleburg, Fla.) laid down a squeeze bunt that scored Robinson to give the Spartans a 3-1 lead. Upstate made it a 4-1 lead on Settlemyre's RBI single through the right side. Jessica Ujvari (Niceville, Fla.) made it a 5-1 lead when she lifted a sacrifice fly to right to score pinch runner Kara Lohr (Lexington, N.C.) from third.
"Scoring those runs in the sixth was important," said Hawkins. "For us to hit the ball the way we did against a very good pitcher was something we needed. We had several hard hit balls that they made plays on, so to hit the ball the way we did is very encouraging."
Upstate also used standout defense to down Stetson Thursday. The nation's No. 1 defense (.982 fielding percentage) turned in a key double play, second baseman Dana Landers (Simpsonville, S.C.) made a tremendous play ranging to the middle of the field and throwing out the runner at first to end an inning, and shortstop Kieffer ended the game with a backhanded stab and throw in the hole.
Ericka Harris (Piedmont, S.C.), who broke the Upstate Division I era school record for games played and games started last month, made history again Thursday. With her second of six putouts of the day, she broke the all-time putouts record held by Valarie Bayer, who was the starting first baseman from 1999-2002. Harris now has 1,329 in her standout career. She already owns Upstate's career fielding percentage record with a .995 percentage.