March 18, 2017

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Samford: Boxscore          PDF

Western Illinois: Boxscore           PDF

MARTIN, Tenn. –
The University of Tennessee at Martin softball team split the opening day of Skyhawk Hampton Inn Fall Classic with a tournament-opening loss to Samford 2-1 before defeating Western Illinois 4-1 in the afternoon affair.

The Skyhawks moved to 18-7 on the season after hosting the team’s first regular season tournament since 2008. The squad struggled to hit on the day after being held to just a .136 batting average despite outscoring their opponents 5-3. While the hits were few, the Skyhawks would score four of their five runs on the day off home runs.

Sophomore Gracyn McBride would paced the Skyhawks with a pair of base hits, including a two-run home run which proved as insurance in the win over Western Illinois. Both Alli Fulcher and Renate Meckl also tallied solo home runs on the day.

While the offense struggled to string hits together, the pitching was strong for UT Martin. Sophomore Sara Hooten (5-2, 2.98 ERA) impressed against Western Illinois, allowing just one hits while striking out seven in a complete game victory. Hooten allowed the Fighting Leathernecks to hit just .045 as a team while allowing no earned runs. Senior Brooke Kennedy (7-2, 3.40 ERA) also posted a strong performance in a hard-fought loss, striking out six while allowing two runs in seven innings.

“Well you would rather win ugly than lose pretty,” said UT Martin head coach Donley Canary. “Not to take anything away from Western Illinois or Samford, but we just didn’t hit well today. Today should have been a hitter’s day with the wind blowing out but our pitching did well today and that was a big plus.”

Game One: Samford 2, UT Martin 1

Fresh off a victory in the early game of the tournament, Samford (9-18) looked to its hot bats to stay alive early in its second game. The Bulldogs got on the board early with a leadoff home run to left field by Madison Couch to take a 1-0 lead.

UT Martin would struggle to get much going offensively until a big blast tied the game in the bottom of the fourth. While the wind was strongly blowing out to left field, Meckl would not need the wind’s assistance as she belted a solo home run down the left field line to tie the game.

With the game still tied at one run apiece, Samford would retake a lead in the top of the sixth inning. After an innocent flyout to start the inning, the Bulldogs would break the tie with a solo home run to left center by Abby Sweeney which proved to be the game-winner.

The Skyhawks would look to strike back in the final two innings but would only place one batter on base down the stretch, ultimately dropping the decision 2-1.

Game Two: UT Martin 4, Western Illinois 1

Unlike in the team’s first game of the day, UT Martin would open the game’s scoring in the bottom of the second inning. With the game at zero, Fulcher would open the second with a solo blast which cleared the scoreboard in left field to give the Skyhawks their first lead of the day.

UT Martin would add to its advantage in the third inning as Savannah Dodson started the frame with a single down the left field line. Dodson would later move into scoring position by swiping second base before advancing to third on a groundout. A walk to Rachel Williams would put runners on the corners, setting up a double-steal opportunity which the Skyhawks enacted to take a 2-1 lead as Dodson scampered home on a delayed steal.

Western Illinois (9-17) looked to rally in the top of the sixth inning. The Fighting Leathernecks would place a pair of runners on base before a flyout to Carly Gonzales resulted in a double play as she rifled a throw back to second to double-up a retreating player. The squad would stay aggressive however as a single up the middle by Kelsey Marlow would break up the no-hitter and shutout in one swing to put the team on the board and cut the margin 2-1.

With the lead back down to just one run the Skyhawks used the bottom of the sixth to find some insurance. Jodie Duncan would sail a shot into the gap which the wind would keep in play resulting in a double. With a runner in scoring position, McBride would just need one pitch before smashing a two-run home run to left to give the Skyhawks an ultimate 4-1 victory.

UT Martin will return to action on Day Two of the Skyhawk Hampton Inn Classic on Sunday, March 19. The Skyhawks will once again take on Samford at 12:30 p.m. before wrapping up the tournament against Western Illinois at 3 p.m.

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