MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin softball team used a play hardly seen to knock off Southeastern Conference opponent Ole Miss on Tuesday evening, successfully using a steal of home to register the 3-2 victory at Bettye Giles Field.
The Skyhawks (14-15-1) tallied two early runs on the evening, but saw their lead dwindle in the late innings, forcing a sneak tactic which gave the home team the slim one run victory. The win marks the sixth consecutive matchup between UT Martin and Ole Miss which has been determined by one run, dating back to 2003.
Five players tallied base hits for the Skyhawks as Kayla Wade, Kenzi Tate, Stephanie Nidiffer, Samantha McClure and Taylor Manning scratched into the hit column. Tate and Nidiffer both tallied consecutive RBIs in the first inning.
UT Martin used three pitchers to pick up the victory, led by the play of Tate who earned the start. Tate pitched four shutout innings in which she struck out three and walked one. Brooke Kennedy appeared in relief in the fifth inning, allowing two earned runs in 1.2 innings of work. Freshman standout Elizabeth Wiegand (9-3) picked up the victory on the evening, tossing 1.1 innings of shutout ball.
“Tonight you saw the type of team that we know we can be,” said UT Martin coach Donley Canary. “We have the ability to play with anyone in the country when we remain focused and do the little things right. Today we came to play in harsher conditions than normal this time of year, kept our focus and came away with the victory.”
Ole Miss (19-15) was led by Miranda Strother who tallied two hits in three appearances. The Rebels leading hitter, RT Cantillo tallied one hit in three at bats, along with the game-tying base hit in the sixth inning. Pitcher Lauren Lindsey allowed one earned run, the game=winning run, in 6.2 innings of work.
The Skyhawks struck first in the bottom of the first inning. Dixon led off the inning by reaching on an infield error. Dixon would quickly steal second before being moved over to third on an infield out. Tate would connect on the first pitch of the ensuing at bat by ripping a double right over the extended hand of the shortstop to score Dixon and take the early lead. With Tate stationed at second, Nidiffer extended the inning with a single up the middle to plate the second run of the inning.
UT Martin would threaten again in the bottom of the fourth inning after Tate reached on an error. Tate would be pulled for pinch runner Bella Zizzi who made quick work of a sacrifice bunt, moving first to third on a sacrifice by Nidiffer. Zizzi would look to score on a slow chopper by Glenn, but would be nailed at the plate for the second out, eliminating the Skyhawk threat.
Ole Miss would tie the game up in the top of the sixth inning. Alyssa Invergo would get the rally started with a one out infield single. The Rebels would string another hit before a pair of walks not only loaded the bases, but brought a runner around to score. With the margin cut in half, RT Cantillo laced a single up the middle to tie the game at two after six innings of play.
With the game tied heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, Manning laced a hard grounder to the left side which kicked into the air. Manning would move into scoring position after successfully swing second base before being moved over to third on a groundout. Manning would not be done however, quickly darting towards home plate following the return throw from the catcher to the pitcher, sliding under the tag for the game winning run. The two steals by Manning were the first steals of her career.
The Skyhawks will look to ride the momentum of today’s action into this weekend when they play host to Ohio Valley Conference rival SIU Edwardsville with a three-game series on Saturday, March 29. Game one of the doubleheader scheduled for Saturday is scheduled to get underway at 1 p.m.