Columbia, S.C. – Katie Zauner belted a two-run home run and accounted for all three of USC Upstate's runs as the Spartans claimed a 3-2 victory over South Carolina to win the Palmetto State Showdown Sunday evening at Beckham Field. Zauner was named the MVP of the tournament.
In addition to Zauner's (Canby, Ore.) standout performance, Spartan pitcher Morgan Childers (Kings Mountain, N.C.) earned the win against South Carolina to improve to 3-0 on the year. She struck out 12 to top 1,000 career strikeouts. She now has 1,003 in her brilliant four-year career. The victory over the Gamecocks came immediately after freshman Hannah Alexander (Lexington, N.C.) earned her first career victory in a 9-1 rout of Winthrop.
Upstate finished the tournament 4-0 to claim the championship. The Spartans will be back in action Wednesday afternoon against Gardner-Webb at 2:30 p.m. in Upstate's home opener at Cyrill Stadium.
"I am really proud of the way we put the effort and intensity into each game," said Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins. "It was a true testament of the hard work we have put into the game of softball since Jan. 12. I want to commend South Carolina's program and what Beverly Smith has done there. They have a lot of energy and are a whole lot better than they were last year."
South Carolina opened the scoring with a run in the second inning. P.J. Fulmer doubled to drive in Kylie Morin to give the Gamecocks a 1-0 lead. Upstate answered in the top of the third when Zauner grounded out to the shortstop, but Kim Brasil (Mississauga, Ontario) scored on the play.
Childers pitched out of a jam in each of the third and fourth innings. In the third, South Carolina loaded the bases with one out, but Childers struck out the final two batters to end the threat. In the fourth, the Gamecocks put runners on second and third, but Childers struck out the next batter to end the threat in the inning.
Upstate jumped on top with two runs in the top of the fifth when Zauner connected on a two-out, two-run home run to left center to put the Spartans on top, 3-1.
South Carolina got a run back in the sixth inning when Samie Garcia singled to drive in a run and put runners on second and third. However, Childers struck out the Chelsea Hawkins for the final out of the inning. In the seventh, South Carolina put together back-to-back singles with one out. Childers stayed tough, striking out Kelley Dillon for the second out and inducing Kaitlin Westfall into fouling out to shortstop Cheyanna Ohlrich (North Bend, Ore.) to end the game.
Childers gave up two runs on eight hits to earn the win and improve to 3-0. She finished the day with 12 strikeouts and the tournament with a 3-0 record and 40 strikeouts. She is only the second pitcher in the history of the A-Sun to reach 1,000 career strikeouts.
"I couldn't have asked for a better start for my senior year," said Childers. "We had a great weekend in all facets of the game. We have to keep working hard to improve and, overall, keep having fun. I wasn't even aware that I was approaching 1,000 strikeouts, but to get that is something special."
Zauner led the way for Upstate, finishing the game 2-for-4 with three RBI and a run. Brasil added two hits and a run.
"I like the pressure of having to deliver for my team," said Zauner. "I thought we played well all weekend long and all of us seemed to come up with key hits when we needed them. I was just fortunate to come through when we needed it against South Carolina. I was surprised that we hit the ball that well as a team. If we can continue to do that, we should be a tough team to beat."
Audrey Broyles went five innings and took the loss for South Carolina to fall to 0-1 on the year.
In the first game of the day, Upstate jumped on Winthrop early and often to take a 9-1 win. Upstate struck first in the bottom of the first. Brasil scored when Zauner reached on an error and Lauren Quevedo (Wellington, Fla.) singled through the middle to drive in Zauner.
Upstate made it a 5-0 game in the third inning when Zauner and Ericka Harris (Piedmont, S.C.) scored after Jenna Torbert (Denver, N.C.) reached on an error. Erica Kaufman (Moncks Corner, S.C.) followed with an RBI single.
Upstate opened an 8-0 run in the fourth inning. Zauner singled to drive in Brasil and Ohlrich followed with a triple to drive in a pair of runs. Winthrop got a run back in the top of the fifth, but Upstate ended the game in the bottom of the frame when Brasil singled to drive in Janna Lewis (Huntersville, N.C.).
Alexander was strong in her collegiate debut. She scattered six hits and gave up just one run to earn the win. She also struck out four.
Zauner finished the game with two hits and three runs. Brasil, Kaufman and Lewis each tallied two hits in the game.
Zauner Named MVP, Joins Three Other Spartans on All-Tournament Team
After leading USC Upstate at the plate over the weekend, including driving in all three runs in the Spartans' 3-2 victory over South Carolina Sunday evening, senior outfielder Katie Zauner has been named the tournament MVP at the Palmetto State Showdown.
In addition to Zauner (Canby, Ore.), three other Spartans were named to the all-tournament team. Joining Zauner on the list were Morgan Childers (kings Mountain, N.C.), Erica Harris (Piedmont, S.C.) and Cheyanna Ohlrich (North Bend, Ore.).
Zauner had a monster weekend at the plate for Upstate. She led the Spartans with a .571 batting average, going 8-for-14 in four games. She collected seven RBI and scored seven runs. She belted two home runs and collected two doubles for a 1.143 slugging percentage. She hit a solo home run with two RBIs in the 8-0 victory over Coastal Carolina to start the weekend on Friday. She collected a pair of hits, both doubles, with an RBI and two runs in the 7-0 victory over Charleston Southern on Saturday. She had two hits, three runs and an RBI in the 9-1 victory over Winthrop in the first game on Sunday, then led Upstate at the plate in the finale against South Carolina. She drove in all three of Upstate's runs, collecting the game-winning hit on a two-run homer to give Upstate a 3-2 win.
Childers was also in the running for MVP honors after finishing the weekend with a 3-0 record, including tossing her fifth career no-hitter to open play on Friday. She struck out 14 and did not give up a hit in Upstate's 8-0 win over Charleston Southern. She tossed another shutout on Saturday, scattering three hits with 14 strikeouts in the 7-0 win over Charleston Southern. On Sunday, she allowed two runs on eight hits against South Carolina, giving the Gamecocks their first loss of the season. She struck out 12 and topped the 1,000 career strikeout mark along the way. She finished the tournament with a 3-0 record and 40 strikeouts in 20 innings pitched.
Harris was strong at the plate and on defense as well. She finished the weekend hitting .444. She also scored five runs in four games. In addition to her performance at the plate, she was flawless on defense, playing catcher and first base. She did not commit an error and had 32 putouts and two assists in four games.
Ohlrich turned in a solid tournament, tying Zauner for the team lead with seven RBIs. She highlighted the weekend by cranking a grand slam in the first inning of Upstate's 7-0 victory over Charleston Southern. In all, she accounted for five RBIs in the game. She collected a pair of RBIs on a triple against Winthrop in the first game on Sunday and also had a hit against South Carolina, finishing the tournament with a .364 batting average.