SOFTBALL USES LATE GAME HEROICS TO SWEEP FINAL DAY OF SKYHAWK HAMPTON INN CLASSIC
Samford: Boxscore PDF
Western Illinois: Boxscore PDF
MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin softball team kept its fans on its toes with a pair of thrilling walk-off victories on Sunday, sweeping the final day of the Skyhawk Hampton Inn Classic. The Skyhawks defeat Samford 3-2 before knocking off Western Illinois 4-3 in extra innings.
The Skyhawks (20-8) picked up their 20th win of the season in dramatic fashion Sunday afternoon. A walk-off single by Lauren Myers would give the Skyhawks a win over Samford before pesky baserunning by Myers in the second game led to an error which scored the game-winning run in the eighth inning over Western Illinois.
After struggling to hit the ball on Saturday, the Skyhawks improved upon their numbers on Sunday with 13 combined base hits – including a home run while driving in five RBIs. Senior Renate Meckl notched her second home run in as many days while pacing the squad with two RBIs on the day while Carly Gonzales, Gracyn McBride and Myers drove in runs on the day.
UT Martin also posted another strong day of pitching performances, notching a 1.87 ERA in the two victories while three pitchers saw action. Sophomore Sara Hooten (6-2, 2.86 ERA) notched her sixth win of the season and second of the weekend with a strong performance against Samford, allowing just two earned runs while striking out five seven innings of work. Freshman Samantha Scott earned the start against Western Illinois before allowing two earned runs in four innings. Senior Brooke Kennedy (8-2, 3.17 ERA) tallied four innings of scoreless relief to pick up a victory against the Leathernecks.
“We saw two really good pitchers today but the girls kept battling and found a way to win,” said UT Martin head coach Donley Canary. “When you only give up a couple of runs in each game that is a great pitching effort. We did not play well yesterday but we bounced back today and that is encouraging heading into conference play next weekend.”
Game 1: UT Martin 3, Samford 2
Much like yesterday’s contest, Samford would come out of the gates looking to make a statement in the first inning of play. A bunt single would get the Bulldogs in action before two more singles later in the inning – capped off by Hannah Trombley – gave the visitors an early 1-0 lead.
The Bulldogs remained hungry in the top of the second inning despite starting the frame with two quick outs. Whitney Hinton would lace a double into left field before coming home on the following RBI single by Madison Couch – pushing the team’s margin out to two runs.
UT Martin came charging back in the bottom of the third inning. Freshman Reid Ballard would battle a six-pitch sequence before driving a single into left field. After being relieved for a pinch runner in Alicia Hansen, the Skyhawks would move the runner into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. With a speedy runner on the bags, Gonzales would line a double into right center to put the Skyhawks on the board before eventually coming home herself on a sacrifice fly off the bat of McBride to tie the contest.
The game would remain tight down the stretch with neither team finding much room for an offensive opportunity. With the game still tied heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, the Skyhawks looked to capitalize on a prime scoring chance. The Skyhawks would load the bases with just one out setting up Myers for the heroics who cashed in on the opportunity with a bloop single into right field to drive in the winning run and give UT Martin a 3-2 victory.
Game 2: UT Martin 4, Western Illinois 3 – Eight Innings
After a slow start in the team’s first game of the day, UT Martin looked to strike in the bottom of the first inning. Gonzales would lead off the frame with a single through the left side before moving herself into scoring position by swiping her 26th base of the season. With a runner at second, Meckl would single up the middle to drive in the early run.
Western Illinois would fight back in the top of the fourth inning to take its first lead of the contest. After a pair of quick outs to start the inning, the Fighting Leathernecks would start a rally behind a fielding error to awaken the bats. Back-to-back singles by Aly Compton and Rachel Beatty would drive in a pair of runs and give the road squad a 2-1 lead.
Trailing for the first time in the contest, the Skyhawks led off the bottom of the fourth with a double down the right field line by McBride to spur a comeback attempt. McBride would then be relieved for pinch runner Gabby Zizzi who would only have to trot home on the following at bat as Meckl drove a deep two-run home run over the left field party porch to give UT Martin an one-run advantage again.
The Leathernecks would look to make the lead short-lived in the top of the fifth as Meghan Henson led off the frame with a solo shot to left center to tie the game at three runs each.
Drama would reenter Bettye Giles Field in the eighth inning as extra innings enacted the international tie-breaker rules with a runner being placed on second with no outs. UT Martin would complete its first task of stranding Western Illinois’ potential go-ahead run at third base in the top of the eighth inning before shifting focus to the bottom half of the frame. As the Skyhawks placed Myers on second base to start the inning, Aeron Smith would quickly move the runner over to third with a sacrifice bunt. With the game-winning run just 60 feet from the plate, Myers would fake towards home plate to draw a return throw which went wild, bringing the winning run home on a throwing error to give the Skyhawks a 4-3 win.
UT Martin will return to action with a matchup at regional rival Southern Illinois on Tuesday, March 21. First pitch from Charlotte West Stadium is scheduled for 4 p.m.