WALK-OFF SQUEEZE PLAY SINGLE CAPS OFF DRAMATIC COMEBACK VICTORY OVER BELMONT
April 6, 2013
MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin baseball team shook off a seven-run deficit this afternoon at Skyhawk Field, downing Ohio Valley Conference leader Belmont 9-8 thanks to a walk-off hit by senior third baseman Matt Haynes.
The Skyhawks (9-21, 2-12 OVC) trailed 7-0 after the top of the fourth but responded with three runs in the bottom half. After Belmont tacked on one more run in the fifth, UT Martin’s pitching staff shut down the Bruins for the remainder of the game.
UT Martin tied the game with five runs in the bottom of the seventh, with the final three runs coming off Jessie Snodgrass, who entered the series as the OVC leader in opponent batting average and second in ERA. After a scoreless eighth on both sides, Skyhawk reliever Chris Ross (3-1) worked a shutout ninth, setting the stage for UT Martin to complete its comeback.
Wade Collins (2-for-5) led the ninth off with a double over the centerfielder’s head. Redshirt senior Kyle Bargery then executed a clutch two-strike sacrifice bunt to advance Collins to third. Belmont then elected to intentionally walk Brent Morris to set up a righty-on-righty matchup against Haynes. On the first pitch, Haynes pushed a hard bunt past the Bruin first baseman – his third hit of the contest – while Collins slid home to give the Skyhawks the big victory.
“We work on that bunt play a lot, especially with runners on first and third because the first baseman has to hold the runner on,” UT Martin head coach Bubba Cates said. “That was a big play and Matt did a great job keeping the ball inside the line.”
Six Skyhawks produced multi-hit outings today, led by three-hit efforts by Haynes, Byron Johann and Nico Zych. Along with Haynes, fellow senior Matt Young added a pair of hits to go along with two runs and two RBI, including his first home run of the season. Sonny Mastromatteo compiled two hits, a run scored and an RBI for UT Martin, who outhit the Bruins by a 17-11 margin.
Ross (1.1 innings, zero hits, two strikeouts) earned the victory after taking over for Carter Smith, who conceded only two runs off four hits in 4.1 innings of work. Skyhawk starter Taylor Cox fanned four batters over 3.1 innings but received a no-decision.
Cox retired the side in order in the first, registering two strikeouts. Belmont then scored three runs in the second, one in the third and three in the fourth to take its seven-run advantage.
In UT Martin’s three-run fourth, it was Haynes who ignited the rally. He singled to center to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a Mastromatteo single. Zych then bunted for an infield single to load the bases with no outs. Haynes came around to score on a double play, but the Skyhawks weren’t finished. Young crushed a 3-1 pitch for a towering home run out to left center.
The Bruins pushed their lead out to 8-3 in the top of the fifth but that would be the final run the Skyhawks would allow. Smith retired 10 straight batters from the fifth through the eighth, needing just 16 total pitches to retire the side in order in the sixth and seventh.
Young legged out an infield single to start off the bottom of the seventh. Johann then guided a single through the right side and both runners advanced 90 more feet on an error. Young later scored on a wild pitch to make the score 8-4, while Paublini singled in Johann to slice the Skyhawk deficit to three. Morris then ripped the first pitch he saw for a single bring the tying run to the plate for Haynes, who sent a double off the left field wall to plate two. After Mastromatteo sacrificed Haynes to third, Zych singled to left field to even the score at 8-8.
Ross retired his final two batters via strikeouts, setting up the ninth inning heroics.
UT Martin will go for the series victory tomorrow, when it hosts Belmont at 1 p.m. at Skyhawk Field.