Photo by David Chamberlain / MTSU Sidelines
Story by Devin P. Grimes / Staff Writer
A historic season for the Middle Tennessee Blue Raider softball team continued as they left Charlotte, North Carolina, hitting their way to become 2018 Conference USA Softball Champions after defeating the number one seeded Florida Atlantic Owls 7-6 on Saturday.
The Blue Raiders entered this tournament as a six-seeded underdog. In the preseason, the team was projected to finish as an 11 seed (second to last) in conference play without making a tournament appearance. This group of ladies had other plans, however, and proved all doubters wrong.
Four straight wins in the first four rounds led to back-to-back games against Florida Atlantic in the final two games. The Blue Raiders just knocked off the top-seeded Owls 7-5 the day prior to claiming the championship. In that game, they battled through adversity and earned a comeback win after trailing in the top of the sixth inning, 4-0.
In the championship game, Kristin Uselton was the deciding factor as she hit a grand slam in the top of the fifth inning. This grand slam was Middle Tennessee’s second of the tournament. The shot out to left field gave Middle Tennessee a big enough lead to hang on despite the Owls late rally.
The grand slam was set up by the lead-off hitter of the inning, Kirstyn Cuccia. She continued to swing the bat well after her performance in the semifinals. Keely McGee followed with a walk, and Summer Burgess reached first to load the bases after a Florida Atlantic error.
Middle Tennessee became the lowest seed to ever win the tournament. Senior pitcher Cori Jennings helped her team through the tournament and was unhittable against North Texas and Florida International. She pitched a complete shutout in round one and two. In the second round against FIU, Jennings became just the third pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the conference tournament.
The Blue Raiders will find out who they play in the NCAA Tournament tonight at 9 p.m. For Blue Raider fans, the softball team will host an NCAA selection show tonight at the Hall of Fame building.
To contact Sports Editor David Chamberlain, email firstname.lastname@example.org.