CHARLESTON, Ill. – Down to its final two outs in the top of the ninth inning, The University of Tennessee at Martin baseball team pushed across a pair of runs to go on top and never looked back, capturing a 4-3 win over Eastern Illinois at Coaches Stadium.
UT Martin (11-38, 4-24 Ohio Valley Conference) led 2-0 until the Panthers scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh to take their first lead of the game. The Skyhawks then generated a pair of runs thanks to a Taylor Cox game-tying RBI single with one out and a Hagen Nelson sacrifice fly that brought home Byron Johann for the eventual game-winning run.
Carter Smith (1-4) then capped off another remarkable appearance out of the bullpen by not allowing a ball out of the infield in a perfect ninth. Overall, Smith tossed 2.1 no-hit scoreless innings, fanning three while allowing just one walk.
Cox registered a pair of hits to go along with an RBI and run scored to lead the Skyhawks offensively. Grant Glasser led the ninth inning rally off with a single, scoring the tying run and adding an RBI as well. Matt Haynes also scored and drove in a run for UT Martin, who outhit the Panthers by an 8-6 margin.
Senior Dan Tobik was sharp in his final start in a Skyhawk uniform but received a no-decision. He blanked Eastern Illinois through six innings before finishing with two earned runs allowed off six hits in 6.2 frames. He accumulated eight strikeouts, giving him 263 career punchouts – just four shy of Jody Fuller’s school record.
The Skyhawks struck first with a run in the top of the second. Cox smashed a leadoff double into the gap in left center, then advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Nico Zych. Haynes then displayed a good piece of hitting by hitting a groundout to the right side, allowing Cox to score and give UT Martin a 1-0 advantage.
Tobik would soon find his zone, retiring 12 of 13 batters at one point ranging from the second to sixth inning. He retired the side on nine pitches in the third, then followed that with another three-up, three-down inning in the fourth in which he recorded a pair of strikeouts.
UT Martin tacked on another run in the top of the fifth. Haynes singled through the left side to lead off the inning, then advanced 90 feet thanks to a sacrifice bunt by Drew Erie. After Haynes advanced to third on an error, he came around to score when Glasser lifted a sacrifice fly out to center to make the score 2-0.
Tobik amassed two more strikeouts in a scoreless fifth and pitched around a man in scoring position to put another zero on the scoreboard in the sixth.
The Skyhawks loaded the bases with one out in the seventh but could not add on to their lead. Eastern Illinois used that momentum to score three runs in the bottom half of the inning for a 3-2 lead.
UT Martin accounted for a pair of baserunners in the eighth but couldn’t even the score. Smith notched two strikeouts in a scoreless eighth, setting the stage for the Skyhawks’ ninth inning comeback.
Glasser fought off a 1-2 pitch for a leadoff single, putting the tying run aboard the basepaths. Sonny Mastromatteo then laid down a perfect bunt to advance Glasser into scoring position. Glasser then moved up to third base on a wild pitch and after a four-pitch walk to Johann put men on the corners, Eastern Illinois opted for a pitching change. Cox wasted no time taking care of business, pulling a single through the right side on the first pitch after the change to tie the score at 3-all. After Johann and Cox both advanced into scoring position thanks to a passed ball, Nelson sent a fly ball into deep center that scored Johann and tilted the score back in UT Martin’s favor at 4-3.
Smith would make that one-run lead stand, tallying a strikeout, groundout to first and foulout to first in the ninth to notch his first win of the season.
The Skyhawks will look to clinch the series with a victory on Friday, May 17. The game time has been pushed up to 1 p.m. to avoid the threat of rain.