Photo Courtesy: UCA Athletics (Steve East)
CONWAY, Ark. (UCA) - The Central Arkansas softball team responded to a rough couple of conference series in a big way on Wednesday evening, defeating the 18th-ranked Tulsa Golden Hurricane 1-0 at Farris Field.
Both starting pitchers were just short of unhittable on the day, as Tulsa (26-2-1) and Central Arkansas (22-11) were held to just two hits and two walks while striking out 16 times in the 13 innings worked by the starters. Kelsie Armstrong (15-7) earned the win for the Bears, throwing seven innings and allowing just one hit and one walk. Lacey Middlebrooks took a no decision for the Golden Hurricane. In five innings, Middlebrooks allowed one hit and issued two walks. Both pitchers recorded eight strikeouts on the day. Aimee Creger (13-2) suffered the loss, giving up the day's only run on the back of two hits allowed, two walks, and two strikeouts.
"Great pitching, we pitched great today and so did they," said Bears head coach David Kuhn after the game. "It was a classic pitcher's duel. We made all of our plays on defense, but it all starts in the circle. Without great pitching, it's really hard to win."
Sam Forrest, Melissa Bryant, and Stephanie Lasley each picked up one of the Bears' three hits, but it was a walk that decided the final outcome. In the bottom of the sixth inning, Stephanie Lasley welcomed Creger to the game with a leadoff single to right-center field. She then swiped second base, her second steal of the game, before advancing to third on a single by Bryant. Melanie Bryant drew a walk to load the bases for Sarah Bigej. Bigej drew a walk of her own to drive in Lasley for her 29th RBI of the season. Creger managed to minimize the damage that Central Arkansas was able to do though, working out of the jam by forcing a pop out and recording her second strikeout of the inning.
One run proved to be all the cushion that Armstrong needed. She quickly dispatched Tulsa in the top of the seventh, forcing a pair of fly outs and a pop-up to secure the win.
"I thought we had some good at-bats," said Kuhn. "We went deep in some at-bats, and showed some discipline at the plate. It feels good to get the victory, because it was the type of game where you knew it was going to come down to who made a mistake first."
The win was the program's second victory over a ranked opponent since joining Division I. It also served at the first Central Arkansas home victory over a ranked opponent in any sport since the baseball team beat no. 23 Lamar on March 13, 2009.
The Bears will look to use the victory to get back on track in Southland Conference play, where they sit at 5-4 after opening play with a three-game sweep of Stephen F. Austin. "Last week was humbling for us," explained Kuhn. "If anything, this just shows that if we throw the ball well and keep the game close, then we have a chance to win against anyone."
Central Arkansas will return to the field this weekend, playing host to McNeese State for a three-game set. The teams will play a double-header beginning at 5:00 pm on Friday, before closing the series with a single game at 11:00 am on Saturday.