Behind strong starting pitching, Southern Miss will carry their three-game Conference USA winning streak to Tulsa this weekend as they close out the regular season at the nationally-ranked Golden Hurricane.
Senior Beth Dietrich picked up a pair of wins for Southern Miss last weekend over East Carolina to secure the school's sixth-straight C-USA tournament bid and make in three-in-a-row for the Golden Eagles.
Tulsa, also the hosts of the 2013 C-USA Softball Championship which begins on Thursday, May 9, entered the week No. 24 in the NFCA Coaches Poll and is receiving votes in the USA Softball Poll.
Against Tulsa (38-13-1, 16-5 C-USA), the Golden Eagles will face the best pitching duo in the conference in Aimee Creger and Lacey Middlebrooks, both potential Pitcher of the Year candidates in their own rights. Creger (1.03 ERA) and Middlebrooks (1.65 ERA) have combined to win 35 games this season with the former's 249 strikeouts in 169.2 innings putting her at No. 15 in the national rankings.
At the plate, the Hurricane are also a threat, led by Jill Barrett (.404/.494/.448) and Samantha Cobb (.341/.571/.415). Tulsa features four batters overall batting 300 or better with three more above 280 on the year.
For Southern Miss (14-37, 4-15 C-USA), the emergence of three freshmen late in the season and the consistent play of their three seniors, Dietrich, Danielle LaPointe, and Kimberly Wagner, has put them in the C-USA championship as a lock for the No. 8 seed. Freshmen Sarah Evans, Morgan McKeever and Michelle Stringer have gone 9-for-26 (.346 average) at the plate over the team's three-game winning streak with Evans batting a clean 500 at 5-for-10.
The team is 6-19 all-time against the Golden Hurricane and has managed just a single win, in 2007, in Tulsa over the course of the series. Currently, Tulsa holds a seven-game winning streak over Southern Miss including sweeps in the last two series meetings and a victory in last season's C-USA championship opening round.
First pitch for Saturday's doubleheader is set for 1 p.m. while Sunday's single game will begin at Noon.
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