MARTIN, Tenn. –The University of Tennessee at Martin softball team hit two home runs and tallied seven base hits, but it was a single in the bottom of the 11th inning that proved to be the difference in the game. In a game which saw more innings than the scoreboard had numbers, the Skyhawks capped off the three-hour showdown with a walk-off winner driven off the bat of freshman Deven Wilson to sink the visiting Southern Illinois Salukis.
In a matchup which saw six lead changes and 11 frames, the Skyhawks (28-11) got the game started with an early surprise. Playing through injury, junior Kayla Wade turned on the 1-2 pitch in the top of the first to claim her first career home run over the right field fence.
The Salukis soon retaliated in the top of the second as Ashley Kimball scored on an RBI double by Michelle Bradley. Bradley later came around to score on a single by Morgan Barchan.
With the wind blowing at 20 mph gust to right field, sophomore Kenzi Tate lined a laser through the wind stream and over the left field deck to notch her ninth home run and to move higher up the leader boards with RBIs 40 and 41.
SIU responded by tying the game in the fourth and scoring the go-ahead run in the top of the sixth. The Salukis scored their tying run on a passed ball which evaded the catcher in the fourth and via sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth.
Trailing by one in the bottom of the seventh the Skyhawks were faced with defeat. UTM turned to their speedy senior All-American in Taylor, reaching base after taking a ball off the body. Taylor quickly got into scoring position, swiping not only second but motoring to third as the Salukis misplayed the steal attempt. Faced with the one run deficit and two outs, Taylor quickly scampered home on a wild pitch to tie the game and ultimately force extra innings. She finished with four steals and two runs scored on the day.
As the innings past and the international rule went into effect, the tension continued to mount as opportunities came and went. No moment became more crucial in the game than when freshman Autumn Glenn entered the game in the top of the 10th. With SIU already in scoring position due to the international rule and a walk in the inning, Glenn entered the game with runners on first and second with one out and a 2-1 count on the batter. Glenn pitching above her age, quickly retired the opposition and ended the Saluki threat with a strikeout and infield popup.
Building off the momentum of back-to-back strong defensive innings, the Skyhawks finally sent the fans home happy in the bottom of the 11th. Senior Becca Williams began the inning on second with no outs but the Skyhawks were not able to move the runner over on consecutive plate appearances. Having caught the entire game and notching a single on a near identical play in the ninth, Wilson nailed the game-winning single into the right-center field gap as Williams rounded third to score the winning run.
The circle once again produced a great performance, striking out nine and leaving 14 baserunners stranded. Casey Vincent got the start for the Skyhawks, pitching 5.0 innings while striking out four and allowing just three runs. Morgan Lewis added 4.1 innings while striking out four and allowing just one run. Glenn (2-1, 1.52 ERA) notched her second victory of the season, pitching 1.2 perfect innings while striking out one.
“Despite the missed opportunities throughout the game, I’m very proud of the way our girls continued to fight,” said UT Martin head coach Donley Canary. “No matter how difficult the situation grew in the late innings, our girls stepped up when they were called upon and got the outs that they needed. Our pitchers were presented with difficult challenges throughout the extra frames and continued to give our team the best chance to win. No matter how many innings we were faced with, our girls showed they weren’t going to give up and that’s exactly what we’re looking for as we hit this very crucial stretch in our season and OVC play.”
The Skyhawk softball team will return to OVC action this weekend as they host West division rival Murray State in a three game series. First pitch of Saturday’s doubleheader from Bettye Giles Field is slated for 1 p.m. with the second game quickly to follow.