BATON ROUGE, La. - After an 18-hour rain delay left Saturday's matchup in question, it was the bat of Melanie Mendoza that completed the comeback on Sunday morning to top Southern Miss 6-4 at Tiger Park.
Play was suspended on Saturday afternoon with USM leading 4-2, but with the bases loaded to get things going and one out in the frame, the resilient Mavs came ready to play. Aileen Garcia drew a walk to get UTA within a run, and Melanie knocked the go-ahead hit to put the Mavs on top for good. In the sixth, Sandra Mendoza provided another RBI hit for insurance.
"It was a great way to end the weekend," UTA coach P "This tournament sets us up for the rest of the season. One of the things that had been missing was the energy, and this entire weekend all we had was energy and focus. To see them come back after the delay and having to get up so early this morning and nobody complaining to pull the win off, as a coach, I am completely proud of what they did this weekend.
Whitney Walton paced the offense with a team-high four hits over the four games, scoring two runs. Garcia and Sandra Mendoza tied with three RBI, while an impressive effort from JoJo Valencia saw the sophomore finish with a 2-0 record and a save with a 0.46 ERA.
"We always knew she was a tough kid on the mound, she is small in stature, but when she is in that circle she is big," Brun said. "People are surprised with how tough she is and she is playing a really huge role to keep her composure in the stressful times. When they have runners in scoring position they really keep it together. When our players are in defense, you are going to play great when you have that in the circle."
The Mavericks ended their opening weekend with a 3-1 record with victories over Syracuse, UMass and the thriller with Southern Miss. UTA returns home for its Allan Saxe Field opener on Tuesday against Texas Tech at 3 p.m.
"This is extremely exciting. "It is going to be our first home game as a coaching staff. We are really excited and they are a good team, we knew this week was going to be a challenge to see how strong we will be mentally and after a 3-1 record we want to show off in front of our home crowd and what we are made of. It will be a great thing for both"
HOW IT HAPPENED:
Things looked grim as Southern Miss opened the game with a four-run opening frame. Three hits and a walk helped the Golden Eagles build up their lead. A 24-minute weather delay stopped play before a two-RBI single doubled USM's lead to 4-0 after the first.
It took until the fourth before UTA could send runs across the dish. Walton opened the frame with a single into right center and Aileen Garcia knocked UTA's first home run of the season over the left-field fence.
The all-important fifth inning saw UTA load the bases with a walk, a single and an error before Mother Nature put a halt to play on Saturday afternoon. Resuming play on Sunday morning, Garcia drew a walk to bring in Mendoza. A foul out to first for the second out put things in doubt, but Melanie's single through the left side brought home Garcia and Sandra for the first lead of the contest. A run down would end the frame with UTA on top 5-4.
Sandra provided insurance in the sixth after Valencia didn't get affected by a one-out base hit. Valencia earned her first save of the season by closing out the seventh.
LEADING THE MAVERICKS:
UTA's pitching staff was able to calm itself after the opening inning to toss six scoreless frames. Randi Phillips went to 1-1, allowing five hits, four earned runs - all in the first - and struck out five. Valencia gave up one hit and hit a batter to earn the save. Bryanna Datko joined with Sandra with multiple hits, Datko's coming in the sixth on a leadoff double that eventually turned into a run. Melanie finished with two RBI, while Garcia led with three.
"They really stepped it up," Brun said of Datko and Melanie. "They have been practicing well and to get the shot, they were phenominal. Bryanna was great behind the plate. She did a great job in this game. Melanie came in with the big hit when we started. They both got the shot and weren't afraid out there and really were very big for us to get the win."
WHAT'S NEXT ON THE SLATE:
The highly-anticipated home opener is on the schedule as UTA hosts Texas Tech on Tuesday at Allan Saxe Field at 3 p.m.
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