TROY, Ala. - With one swing of the bat, Laura Curry blasted a three-run, two-out home run in the seventh and Whitney Walton provided the go-ahead hit to complete the comeback to down Georgia State 9-8 on Thursday night at Troy Softball Complex in the Sun Belt Championship tournament.
The Mavericks (31-25) went into the final frame down 8-5 after the Panthers used six runs in the fourth and fifth innings to jump into the lead. Following a single and a hit-by-pitch, Curry drove a line drive over the right-centerfield wall for the first home run of her career that left the field (had an inside-the-park earlier in the year). Sandra Mendoza singled in the next at-bat, advanced on a wild pitch and came in as the winning run on Waltons single through the right side of the infield.
"I think that was a great game and really showcased what Sun Belt competition looks like on a daily basis," UTA coach Kristie Fox said "We have already had to face that team three times and every game has been like that where we just compete to the very, very end. I am very proud of my team and the way that they battled and for everything that they did through all the adversity and coming back from behind. It just really shows their character and all of the things that we have been working really hard to build on in one moment. Taking care of the ball, coming up with clutch hits, I just think that as a coach when they do that you just feel that proud mom moment."
The win clinched the Mavericks their best run through the Sun Belt tournament since joining the conference in 2014. UTA will take on South Alabama on Friday in the Elimination Bracket semifinal at 12:30 p.m. The Jaguars defeated UTA in the second round of the tournament, however, the Mavs topped the Jags 2-1 in a series in April.
Curry finished the night with a 3-for-4 effort, crossing the plate twice to go along with her three RBI. Aileen Garcia also notched three hits, while Mendoza and Walton each provided a pair of base knocks.
"It felt great," Curry said. "They have just been telling me all month to go up there with confidence and I have been trying to do that. At that moment I knew I was going to get a hit and get on, it was just icing on the cake to see it go over the fence."
UTA starter Sam Clakley earned the win, her second of the tournament, as she broke a single-season tie for third in wins with her 25th of the season.
It was a two-out rally that helped open scoring as the Mavs scored in each of the first two innings. Back-to-back hits started things off with a Garcia shot into the gap to score Walton. Georgia State would leave two in scoring position in the bottom half, leaving the door open for UTA to take advantage. The Mavs took the chance with a walk sandwiched around two singles to put the bases full. An error helped send the first run across the plate and Marisa Datko sent a sac fly to center to plate Kacey Everett.
Georgia State countered with a two-run inning for itself in the bottom of the second, loading the bases and bringing in runs on a single and an illegal pitch.
After UTA pushed the advantage to 4-2, it was a two-out rally that sent Georgia State to the lead. Having plagued the Mavs on two outs when the teams met in Atlanta, a five-run fifth that was highlighted by a grand slam, was a part of four hits and a walk all on two outs.
Both teams scratched runs across in the fifth as Garcia doubled to right for a leadoff hit. Shelbi Sikes drove her home as a grounder brought her around.
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