WKU tops USC Upstate, will face Alabama in Regional final

Junior infielder Olivia Watkins scores a run against USC Upstate. WKU won 3-0 against USC Upstate in the NCAA Regional Softball Tournament at Rhoads Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. on Saturday May 18, 2013.

Kyle Williams

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Following a tough loss to defending national champion Alabama, WKU (43-17) shut out South Carolina Upstate (42-12) 3-0 Saturday night to earn a rematch against the Crimson Tide in the NCAA Tournament Regional championship game.

Because of the double-elimination format, the Lady Toppers will need two straight wins against host Alabama (43-13) to claim the Tuscaloosa Regional championship tomorrow at Rhoads Stadium.

Coach Tyra Perry said the 3-0 shutout of USC Upstate was easier said than done.

“It’s always difficult to beat a team twice,” Perry said. “Especially a well-coached team…at this point in the tournament it’s definitely just survive and advance. So we’re really excited we were able to do that today.”

Senior pitcher Mallorie Sulaski started in the circle for WKU and allowed just two hits in all seven innings.

The beginning of the game was a defensive battle, as just one hit was registered between the two teams through the first three innings.

Junior infielder Olivia Watkins recorded the first hit of the game for the Lady Toppers in the top of the fourth inning.

Watkins would steal second before scoring off an error by USC Upstate to give WKU the 1-0 lead.

Watkins said the Sunday rematch with Alabama is an opportunity to avenge the earlier loss.

“I feel like it’s revenge because we should have taken the first game away from them, but it’s a great opportunity,” Watkins said. “I’m glad to be here and so is my team.”

The Lady Toppers tacked on two more runs in the top of the fifth inning off two more errors from USC Upstate to extend their lead to 3-0.

As of May 15, USC Upstate led the nation in fielding percentage with .983 and totaled just 21 errors all season.

USC Upstate tallied a hit in the bottom of the sixth inning for its final hit of the game as the Lady Toppers went on to seal the shutout 3-0.

 WKU moves on to play No. 10-seed Alabama in the championship game of the Tuscaloosa Regional tomorrow at 1 p.m. If the Lady Toppers win the first matchup, the deciding game is slated for 3:30 p.m.

Perry said the Lady Toppers are excited for the opportunity to play the Crimson Tide again.

“We’re pumped,” Perry said. “…We came here to win and had an opportunity to do so earlier today to do so and fell a little bit short. We’re pressing the reset button and coming out strong tomorrow.”