March 15, 2014

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MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin baseball team muscled up for a season-high five extra-base hits while a pair of pitchers combined to allow zero earned runs in a 6-5 Skyhawk victory in Game 2 of today’s doubleheader against Murray State. Earlier in the day, UT Martin led early but fell 7-2 to the Thoroughbreds at Skyhawk Field.

UT Martin (2-15, 1-5 Ohio Valley Conference) was led offensively today by Taylor Douglas, who hit .667 (4-for-6) on the day. That included a 3-for-4 effort in Game 2 alone, where he homered, doubled twice, scored three times and added a pair of RBI’s. Douglas became the first Skyhawk to accumulate three extra-base hits in a single game since Trey Karlen (two doubles, home run) accomplished the feat at Southeast Missouri on April 17, 2011.

“Taylor had a good day,” UT Martin interim head coach Brad Goss said. “His home run early was a two-strike homer where he had to battle in that at-bat. He came up big again with what we thought was another home run but it hit off the wall for a double when we were making our comeback. That was a key hit in that inning.”

Ben Upton also had a pair of hits and two RBI’s in the nightcap – including the go-ahead RBI that gave the Skyhawks the lead for good. Phil Sorensen also launched his first homer of the season to help give UT Martin an early lead in Game 2.

On the mound, Alex Martin was not credited with a decision although he racked up a career-high seven strikeouts while allowing zero earned runs on just three hits over 5.2 innings. John Houston (1-0) earned the win in Game 2 by tossing 3.1 shutout innings out of the bullpen. Houston has now had a hand in both Skyhawk wins this season (mound victory and a save).

“We had that one big inning in both games today and that’s been the one downfall so far is just trying to stay out of the big inning,” Goss said. “Our defense didn’t help Alex out much at all and then John came in and got out of the sixth. He was able to settle in and shut the door for the most part at the end.”

That pitching performance backed a commendable effort out of the Skyhawk hurlers in Game 1. Starting pitcher Taylor Cox allowed only three earned runs in 5.2 innings of work but fell to 0-4 on the season. Stu Jones (2.1 scoreless innings) and John Skubina (one shutout inning) also pitched well in Game 1 for the Skyhawks.

UT Martin returns to the road for its next four contests, starting with a midweek matchup at Evansville on Tuesday, March 18. First pitch time is set for 6 p.m.

Game 1

The Skyhawks held a lead through four innings but ultimately couldn’t muster enough offense against Murray State starting pitcher Brock Downey, who improved to 4-0 on the season after striking out 12 batters and allowing five hits in a complete game outing.

Drew Erie led the day off with a single up the middle in the bottom of the first and was moved up to second base thanks to a sacrifice bunt by Douglas. Two batters later, Nico Zych singled out to left field to score Erie and give UT Martin a 1-0 lead. The Skyhawks then took advantage of a Murray State error and tacked on another two-out run to go on top 2-0.

Cox was zoned in early, retiring 10 of the first 12 batters he faced while shutting out the ‘Breds through three frames. However, Murray State would score an unearned run in both the fourth and fifth innings to even up the score at 2-all.

The ‘Breds then opened the game up in the sixth, scoring five runs on five hits to go on top by a 7-2 margin.

While Jones and Skubina did a good job of holding Murray State scoreless the rest of the way, the Skyhawk batters could not solve Downey – as a Douglas single in the eighth was the only hit that UT Martin could record over the final five innings.

Game 2

The Skyhawks led for a good portion of the contest before they had to use some late comeback magic to earn their first OVC win of the season.

Murray State got on the scoreboard first with an unearned run in their first at-bat. Murray State’s lead did not last for long, as the Skyhawks pushed across a pair of runs in the bottom of the first. Douglas lined a double down the left field line to start the rally and two batter later, Sorensen crushed an 0-1 pitch over the center field wall for his seventh career round-tripper.

At one point, Martin sat down 10 out of 11 ‘Breds batters, accumulating five strikeouts through his first four frames. Martin then retired the side in order on just seven pitches in the top of the fifth to allow the Skyhawks to pad their lead.

Douglas fought off an early 0-2 count to crank a one-out homer out to left field in the bottom of the fifth and make the score 3-1. It was the first homer of the season for the Holladay, Tenn. native.

Two walks and an error loaded the bases for Murray State in the top of the sixth but Martin recovered with two straight strikeouts. After the next batter walked, Martin was relieved by Houston. The ‘Breds added runs on a wild pitch, infield single and fielding error that resulted in a 5-3 Murray State lead.

Houston pitched around a one-out walk to induce a 6-4-3 double play to end the top of the seventh. Leading off the bottom of the seventh for UT Martin was Jake Deason, who singled to left field. After Mikey Nantze advanced Deason to second on a sacrifice bunt, Erie singled through the right side to put baserunners on the corners. Douglas then continued his breakout game by slamming an 0-2 pitch to the deepest part of the ballpark in straightaway center that brought home Deason. After Cox was issued a two-out walk that loaded the bases, it was Upton’s turn to play hero. The freshman out of Kingwood, Texas lined a single into left field that brought home both Erie and Douglas and gave UT Martin a 6-5 lead it would not relinquish the rest of the way.

Houston escaped a two-out double in the eighth and also worked around a leadoff error in the ninth when Nantze fired a strike to second base to catch the Murray State runner trying to steal. A double down the right field line then followed to put the tying run 180 feet away but Houston recovered with a popout to short and groundout to short to seal the victory.

Photo courtesy of Samantha Mohr/Murray State

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