Neleigh Herring’s solo home run in the bottom of the sixth proved to be the game winner Thursday in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Championship, propelling No. 4 Wichita State to a 2-1 win over No. 5 UCF.
Wichita State (32-24) will make its first appearance in the American Athletic Conference semifinals Friday against the top seed USF Bulls at 1 p.m. CST on the American Digital Network.
Erin McDonald got the start in the circle and threw a complete game, allowing only one run and six hits. She struck out five Knights, including the last batter of the game to run her record to 15-12.
Herring delivered the biggest hit of the game, her sixth home run of the season. Sydney McKinney drove in the other run on a RBI single to finish 1-for-3 at the plate.
UCF (34-21) left eight runners on base, including two bases loaded situations. Alea White (23-14) took the loss despite throwing 6.0 innings and allowing just two runs.
McDonald found herself in an early jam after loading the bases via walk and two infield singles in the top of the first, but escaped without any damage.
In the bottom of the second, Wichita State tallied the game’s first run. After the first two Shockers were retired, Adi Reese dropped a base hit into left and Wylie Glover followed with another single to left center to bring up McKinney. The All-Rookie selection came through with an RBI single down the third base line to make it 1-0.
UCF answered with a Brooke Barlow solo home run in the top of the fourth to tie the game at 1-1, but McDonald would get out of the inning on a flyout to center to strand a Knight on third.
Following a scoreless fifth, McDonald again worked her way out of a bases loaded situation in the top of the sixth. The Knights got on with a pair of walks and a single, but a flyout to center retired the side.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Herring delivered an absolute missile over the left-center wall to put the Shockers back in front 2-1. That would be all the insurance the Shockers would need.
McDonald sat down UCF in order in the seventh, including a pair of strikeouts looking to end the game.