March 29, 2014
RUSTON - Bianca Duran supplied the power and Pauline Tufi kept Florida Atlantic in check as Louisiana Tech defeated the Owls 3-1 in game two of Saturday's Conference USA doubleheader at the Lady Techster Softball Complex.
The win salvaged a split after the Owls (23-16, 6-5 C-USA) won the first game of the day 7-2.
In the second game of the contest, Duran hit a three-run home run off FAU starter Kylee Hanson in the bottom of the first inning and Tufi and the Lady Techster defense did the rest as Tech won 3-1.
"We have struggled a lot this season," said Tech head coach Mark Montgomery. "But the kids are fighting, and I think that shows. We are working hard and getting better and showing improvement. I saw that today. It was great to get the exclamation point with the W."
After Tufi retired FAU in order in the top of the first, Tech struck quickly in its half of the frame. Kristen Miles drew a one-out walk and then Tufi reached on a fielding error by FAU shortstop Shelby Knox. With runners on first and second, Duran drilled a 1-2 offering from Hanson deep over the left field wall for her second home run of the year, giving Tech a 3-0 lead.
"When you put the runs up on the other team first, you win more than you lose," Montgomery said. "We have been doing the opposite of that this year and then having to try to fight back. It was nice to get on top. We played a clean game defensively, something we've been wanting to do."
Duran's home run would be all the offense Tech would generate. However, thanks to Tufi's gem in the circle and solid defense behind her, it would be all the offense the Lady Techsters would need.
Tufi retired the first six batters of the game until issuing a leadoff walk to Shelby Knox in the top of the third. However, the freshman then retired the next six batters as Tech maintained its 3-0 lead through four innings.
"Pauline did a good job," Montgomery said. "I thought she really stayed ahead in the count and controlled the game. She was always throwing her pitches in her count instead of throwing the batters pitches in the batters count."
FAU threatened in the top of the fifth inning as Tufi hit a pair of Owls batters. However, with runners on first and second and two outs, freshman catcher Natalie Moran made one of the defensive plays of the game. On a 0-1 pitch, Moran picked off Knox at first base for the final out of the frame, ending the threat.
Tufi took a no hitter into the sixth inning before FAU third baseman Carnesha Thompson lined a single up the middle and past a diving Anna Cross at shortstop. Once again, Tufi was unfazed, retiring the next three batters to end the sixth.
In the top of the seventh, FAU's Melissa Martinez led off with a solo home run over the left field wall, cutting the Tech lead to 3-1. Tufi kept her composure and retired three of the next four batters to seal the victory.
Tufi (8-6) picked up the win, allowing one run on two hits and two walks while striking out five in the complete-game performance. Duran (1-3, HR, 3 RBI), Cross (1-3), Miles (2-2, 1 run) and Tufi (1 run) were the only offense against Hanson (5-8), who was the tough-luck loser.
In the first game of the day, FAU plated runs in five of its seven at bats as the Owls banged out 11 hits against Duran.
After Florida Atlantic scored a single run in each of its first three at bats to take a 3-0 lead, Tech answered in the bottom of the third as Tufi drove home Cross with a two-out single, cutting the deficit to 3-1. The score remained 3-1 until the sixth when Thompson lined a pitch from Duran over the left field wall for a solo home run, increasing the Owls advantage to 4-1.
Tech countered in the bottom of the sixth as Hailey Winter registered an RBI single to left field, scoring Miles. Pinch runner Taylor Penn then stole second base to put the tying two runs in scoring position with two outs before FAU starter Amanda Wilson induced a ground ball out to end the threat.
FAU then put the game away in the top of the seventh, adding three runs on four hits.
Duran (4-13) took the loss, allowing seven runs - six earned - on 11 hits and two walks in the complete-game performance. Wilson (6-3) picked up the win for the Owls, allowing only two runs on six hits and one walk.
The two teams will play the rubber game of the series Sunday at 1 p.m.