May 10, 2014

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CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – A trio of University of Tennessee at Martin pitchers combined for 19 strikeouts while a pair of upperclassmen delivered clutch hits in the top of the 12th to propel the Skyhawks past Austin Peay, 6-3 in 12 innings at Raymond C. Hand Park.

UT Martin captured its fifth win in the last eight tries tonight while winning for the first time in Clarksville since May 4, 2008. As a result, the Skyhawks improved to 9-36 overall with a 5-20 Ohio Valley Conference mark after besting the Governors, who have represented the OVC in the NCAA Tournament in each of the past three seasons (2011-13).

Taylor Cox, Carter Smith and John Houston came out throwing strikes this evening for UT Martin. The 19 team strikeouts are the most in an OVC game since Eastern Illinois fanned 20 Austin Peay batters on April 6, 2012. The mark also came up just two shy of the UT Martin single-game strikeout record of 21, set against Washington University in 1972 and also against Arkansas-Little Rock in 2002.

Smith arguably pitched his best career game tonight, tying a career-high with 7.1 shutout innings out of the bullpen. The junior out of St. Louis, Mo. dialed up a career-high 12 strikeouts, which ties former teammate Dan Tobik (12 punchouts against Tennessee Tech on March 22, 2013) for the most in a single game by a Skyhawk over the last decade. Smith’s 12 strikeouts were five more than his previous career-high total.

Houston then earned the victory, moving to 3-1 on the season. The senior from O’Fallon, Mo. was his usual dominant self tonight, allowing just one hit and one walk while fanning six batters over 2.2 scoreless innings. The six strikeouts were a new season-high for Houston and fell just one shy of his career-best tally.

The Skyhawk relievers made appearances after UT Martin starter Taylor Cox allowed three runs in two innings with one strikeout.

Offensively, a rookie provided the early offense while a pair of veterans provided the timely hits in the top of the 12th. Freshman Nick Molina blasted his first career homer in the top of the first – a three-run shot that would give the Skyhawks the early advantage. After UT Martin spent the next 10 innings trying to get back on the scoreboard, Phil Sorensen and Nico Zych came up with RBI singles in the 12th to essentially put the game away.

Molina cranked his round-tripper after a Chase Young walk and Ben Upton single in the first. However, Austin Peay came back with a pair of runs in the first and another run in the second to even the score at 3-all.

After Austin Peay (19-31, 11-14 OVC) led off the third with a double, Smith was summoned out of the Skyhawk bullpen and kept the score at 3-all, fanning a pair of Governors to escape the jam.

Smith then faced the minimum in the fourth inning and tuned up another pair of strikeouts in the fifth. After a pair of fielder’s choices and a strikeout in the sixth, Smith retired the side in order in the seventh, polishing off the frame with two more strikeouts.

Catcher Mikey Nantze erased the potential go-ahead run when he threw out a would-be basestealer to end the eighth inning. Austin Peay would then single to lead off the bottom of the ninth and sacrifice bunt the runner over into scoring position. However, Smith buckled down and accumulated a pair of strikeouts to send the game into extra innings.

Smith began the 10th with another strikeout but after a walk and single put baserunners on the corners with one out, Houston mowed down back-to-back Governors by way of the strikeout to keep UT Martin’s hopes alive.

Austin Peay would once again lead off the 11th with a single but Houston recovered by inducing a 4-6-3 double play and another strikeout to send the game into the 12th.

Taylor Douglas singled with one away in the top of the 12th. Upton’s sacrifice bunt attempt was then thrown away by the Governor third baseman, resulting in baserunners on second and third base. Sorensen then jumped on a 1-0 pitch for a single into center that plated Douglas and gave UT Martin a 4-3 lead. After a strikeout, Zych went the opposite way with an RBI single which also brought in Sorensen on a throwing error by Austin Peay’s first baseman on the relay throw to the plate.

Houston then wrapped up the victory with three strikeouts in the bottom of the 12th.

These two teams play the second game of their three-game set on Sunday, May 11 at 1 p.m.

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