MARTIN, Tenn. –Despite being outhit on the day The University of Tennessee at Martin softball team senior duo of Leah Taylor and Becca Williams picked up a pair of RBIs while taking away hits from the visiting Ohio Valley Conference rival Murray State Racers to earn a doubleheader split Saturday at Bettye Giles Field. The Skyhawks took game one, 1-0, before suffering a setback in game two 4-1.
“Leah and I had the mindset going into this game that the fence would not stop us from making the defensive play,” said UT Martin senior outfielder Williams. “Every day we practice making the catch at the wall or making the infield throw to peg a runner. Today I had the outlook that even if I had to run through the fence, I was going to make the play.”
“Even though the bats didn’t come through the way we would have hoped, our defense particularly in the outfield was outstanding,” said UTM head coach Donley Canary. “The wealth of our maturity is in the outfield with seniors in center and right while a junior patrols left. The plays that Becca made today kept us in both games and that’s what you depend on from your seniors, just give us a chance to win the game and they did that today.”
Game One: UT Martin 1, Murray State 0
UT Martin (29-12, 10-5 OVC) needed very little help on the offensive end as sophomore Casey Vincent (12-4, 2.31 ERA) pitched yet another gem in the circle. Vincent, starting her team-leading 20th game on the season, rendered the Racer bats silent as the lefty pitched her fourth shutout on the campaign. The Hillsboro native faced just three more batters than the minimum, striking out seven and not surrendering a walk.
On the offensive end the Skyhawks turned to their senior lead-off hitter in Taylor to give Vincent all the support necessary to get the OVC series opener victory. After Sam McClure broke up the Racers’ no-hitter in the third, Taylor broke the scoreless tie with a line drive home run well over the left field stands in the bottom of the fourth. With the home run, Taylor moved into a tie for third place on the all-time home run list at UT Martin with Megan Williams, sister of the Skyhawk senior right fielder Becca, with 25 career home runs.
In the top of the seventh Williams made the first of many terrific plays in right field, turning a Racer would-be single into 9-3 putout as she charged the ball in right field before zipping an assist to first base to retire the sprinting batter.
Game Two: Murray State 4, UT Martin 1
Unlike game one which saw the first Skyhawk hit come in the third inning, Kayla Wade got the offense jump started with the speedster’s seventh triple of the season, quickly moving into scoring position for the Skyhawks. Wade’s triple into the right field gap moved her into second place on the all-time triples list with 12, moving out of a two-way tie with aforementioned Megan Williams. Wade was later tagged out trying to score on a fielder’s choice to end the Skyhawk threat.
Murray State used scoring innings in the first before Mallory Richardson knocked just her second hit of the season for solo blast, the first of her career to give the Racers a 2-0 lead in the second. The Racers tacked on another unearned run in the top of the sixth.
Facing a Racer threat in the top of the fifth after reaching base on a single, Shelbey Miller lined a would-be RBI to right field. Williams, reading the ball off the bat raced to the fence before making a spectacular leaping catch at the wall and firing the return into first to record the non-traditional 9-3 double play and end the inning.
The Skyhawks came alive in the bottom of the sixth as they stared their 9-0 home field record and the game’s 3-0 deficit in the face. After the first two batters were retired by the Racers, Kenzi Tate took the 0-2 pitch into center field with a single up the middle. Lauren Smith followed the single, with a walk to give the Skyhawks hope with runners on first and second with two outs. Williams, the defensive star of the game, switch roles and stroked an RBI double over the reach of the left fielder to score Tate from second and bring the deficit to 3-1, the closest of the game.
The Racers added the knockout blow in the top of the seventh as Richardson knocked her second solo blast over left field wall and ultimately give the Racers the victory.
Tate, registering her 13th complete game on the season picked up the loss pushing her record to 15-3. Tate held the Racers to just five hits and struck out two.
The Skyhawks and Racers will battle in the series finale on Sunday. First pitch from Bettye Giles Field is scheduled for 1 p.m.