MARTIN, Tenn. –The University of Tennessee at Martin softball team once again leaned on another dominating performance by sophomore pitcher Kenzi Tate and timely hitting throughout the lineup to give the Skyhawks the 5-2 victory over Ohio Valley Conference division rival Austin Peay Saturday.
UT Martin (23-9, 7-2 OVC) jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second innings with a walk by Becca Williams. The senior quickly stole just her second base of the season to move into scoring position with Jessie Britt at the plate. Britt rewarded Williams hustle by lacing an RBI double down the left field line to score Williams.
Speedster Kayla Wade, who in the first inning moved into a tie of third on the UTM all-time triples list, made the defense pay yet again in the bottom of the third after being hit by a pitch on the back. The junior proceeded to tally her fourth stolen base of the series to move into scoring position when Leah Taylor crushed a line drive off the left field wall for an RBI double, giving UTM the 2-0 advantage after three.
Austin Peay (10-16, 1-7 OVC) soon responded in the top of the fourth as Lauren de Castro led off the inning with a single up the middle. Catcher Mel Pavel scored de Castro on an RBI double to left center which Bettye Giles Field narrowly held. Abby Guest helped her own cause as the pitcher tallied a double of her own to score the runner from second and knot the game at two.
The Skyhawks quickly responded in the bottom half of the inning to take control of the game as they pushed across two runs. Lauren Smith, who has hit a commanding .579 in the last seven games, drove a liner into the right field gap resulting in a double. Williams then reached on an infield single off the glove of the diving shortstop to give the Skyhawks runners on second and third after she scampered to second on the throw into the infield. Britt soon welcomed the new Lady Govs pitcher by dumping a single just inside the right field line to score pinch runner Kelsey Dixon from third. Britt and fellow freshman Rachel Scrum successfully pulled a double steal of second and home to bring the score to a 4-2 Skyhawk advantage after four innings of play. Britt finished the day 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
The Skyhawks tallied their fifth and final run of the game in the bottom of the fifth when two miscues by the APSU shortstop allowed Smith to cross the plate.
Tate (13-1, 2.48 ERA), the OVC’s leader in wins produced yet another gem as she limited the gutsy Lady Govs to just five hits on the day while allowing just two earned runs. She struck out five while allowing just one walk to notch her 12th win on the campaign.
We’re playing great ball as our hitters and pitchers have came through when we’ve needed them. I really worked on my pitching in the offseason, just trying to really get comfortable with all of my pitches, said Tate. “Any time we play a team in the conference, we expect to see the other team’s best, so it’s very rewarding to get the wins this weekend.”
“The OVC is loaded this year and we’re trying to stay in the hunt for a championship and to reach our goal, you have to take the wins on your home field. We expect to win, and losing is unacceptable and I’ve been very proud of our girls buying into that. I never hear our girls complain no matter how many times we’ve had to pull the tarp, when you go out and play hard, good things will happen and I have a great group of girls that have bought into what we seek in our program,” UT Martin head coach Donley Canary said. “Kenzi has come in and given us a solid number one or two if you throw in Casey (Vincent), she’s a tremendous competitor whether it be at third base or in the circle, and possibly the biggest competitor I’ve ever been able to coach which is a great testament to her work.”
The Skyhawks will return to action on Wednesday, April 3, as they play host to the Evansville Purple Aces in a mid-week doubleheader. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. from Bettye Giles Field.