Blackburn earns USA South Pitcher of the Week behind her 0.00 ERA

Blackburn earns USA South Pitcher of the Week behind her 0.00 ERA

Maryville College's Nicole Blackburn earns USA South Pitcher of the Week, as the junior hurler recorded a 2-0 record on the week.

Blackburn was one of a trio of awards, as MC took three of the four USA South weekly softball awards. Katlyn Smith earned USA South Rookie Pitcher of the Week, as Taylor Campbell was named USA South Rookie of the Week for her work at the plate.

Blackburn – a Knoxville, Tenn. native – boasted a 0.00 ERA on the week. She didn't allow a single run in 12 innings of work.

"Every opportunity that she's gotten this year, she's succeeded," Head Coach Leah Kelley said. "She's been a work horse since day one when she came her last year from Carson-Newman. She's been up and down – kind of a roller coaster – but she's really buckled down these last few weeks. When she's gotten her opportunities, she's excelled. She's struck out a lot of batters, and she's letting her defense work for her."

Blackburn helped the Scots to the perfect mark, as they outscored opponents 64-0 on the week. In USA South play, MC has posted a 92-2 score while rolling off 90 unanswered runs in their last eight games behind a strong pitching effort.

Blackburn was a key part to that success, as she hasn't allowed an earned run in her last 17 innings or work. The junior right-hander has only given up three earned runs in her last 25 innings.

"That's outstanding," Kelley said. "She's really stepped up. More importantly, she's letting her defense work for her. Her defense is playing solid behind her and making great plays. It's a lot of individual recognition, but it's also a team atmosphere. Our defense is making plays, as well."

In an 11-0 win over LaGrange College, Blackburn pitched a complete five-inning game. She allowed just four hits while striking out four batters. The junior walked just one in 19 batters faced.

In her second game of the week, Blackburn pitched a seven-inning blank of Covenant College. Blackburn gave up nine hits while strike out two and walking one. She faced 32 batters while hurling 84 strikes in 150 pitches.

On the season, Blackburn has a perfect 4-0 mark. She has pitched 31.2 innings of work, while allowing just eight earned runs. She's struck out 24 and walked on three batters on the season, as she leads Maryville with a 1.77 ERA. That ERA mark ranks second within the USA South Athletic Conference, as she is one of only two pitchers without a loss in more than 15 innings of work.

"To get into the postseason, you have to have somebody stepping up right now," Kelley said. "She has seized that she's got an opportunity, and she's been consistent. That is one of the most important things in the postseason – having someone step up and be consistent. She has really remained consistent and done a great job for us on the mound."

Maryville College steps out of USA South Athletic Conference play this week, as they travel to Claremont, Fla. for spring break. The Scots will play six games between March 21-23 on the spring break trip.