Tuscaloosa, Ala. – A five-run fourth inning spelled the difference as No. 21 South Alabama took a 5-0 victory over No. 24 USC Upstate Saturday night at Rhoads Stadium, eliminating the Spartans from the Tuscaloosa Regional.
Upstate ended its most successful season in school history with a 46-9 record, breaking the school's Division I era wins record and falling one win shy of the program's all-time record of 47. The Spartans also finished with single digit losses for the first time on the Division I level and the first time since 1992. Upstate claimed its third A-Sun championship with its regular season title and earned its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament and Tuscaloosa Regional.
"I thought we had a great season, winning 46 games, winning the A-Sun regular season and being ranked in the Top 25 for several weeks. We are a mid-major program I am really proud of," said Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins.
South Alabama improved to 42-13 and advanced to the Tuscaloosa Regional Final to take on No. 5 Alabama Sunday at 1:00 p.m. The teams will play the "if necessary" game 30 minutes following the completion of the game of South Alabama wins the first game of the day.
After three scoreless innings in a pitcher's duel early on between Upstate starter Hannah Alexander and South Alabama starter Hannah Campbell, South Alabama grabbed the lead on Blair Johnson's solo home run in the fourth. It would be the start of a five-run inning for the Jaguars.
Following Johnson's home run, Upstate's Shellie Robinson came up big defensively for the Spartans. Chloe Rathburn lifted a long fly ball that Robinson tracked to the wall, making a leaping catch to keep the ball in the park.
South Alabama went on to put runners on first and second with one out in the inning as Alexander was lifted for reliever Lexi Shubert. Alex Breeden followed with a single to center to drive in a run, while another Jaguar scored on the play on a fielding error in center as South Alabama opened a 3-0 lead. The Jaguars then opened a 5-0 advantage on Amanda Herron's two-run homer to left.
"The fourth was the difference in the game," said Hawkins. "Things didn't go our way. We couldn't hit their pitcher like we did yesterday, at least not well enough to produce runs and that was the difference."
Upstate tried to rally in the seventh, putting runners on first and second with no outs. However, Campbell induced a 6-3 double play and a foul out to end the game.
Campbell went the distance for South Alabama to earn the win and improve to 18-6 on the year. She scattered three Upstate hits through the first six innings and five for the game. Alexander took the loss for Upstate after allowing three runs on four hits, falling to 9-2. Upstate used three pitchers on the night with Shubert and Anna Miller making relief appearances.