April 19, 2014

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Game One:  Boxscore     PDF              Game Two:  Boxscore     PDF

MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin softball squad attempted a valiant comeback in the late innings of Game 2 against Ohio Valley Conference leading Jacksonville State, but would ultimately fall as the Gamecocks escaped Bettye Giles Field with a two-game series sweep on Saturday afternoon. Jacksonville State won Game 1 with a shutout from Tiffany Harbin, 3-0, before Harbin secured the save in a 7-5 victory in Game 2.

The Skyhawks (23-22-1, 10-9 OVC) scored three runs on the day behind RBIs by Carly Gonzales, Renate Meckl and Casey Vincent. Gonzales led the team with three hits while Meckl tallied two hits, including a solo home run.

Three pitchers saw action for the Skyhawks as Brooke Kennedy and Casey Vincent earned both starts. Kennedy (4-2) pitched in Game 1, striking out three and allowing three earned runs in 6.2 innings of work. Vincent (6-7) started Game 2, striking out five while issuing four walks and allowing four earned runs in 3.2 innings. Freshman Elizabeth Wiegand appeared in relief in both contests, pitching 3.2 innings while issuing three walks and allowing two earned runs, both runs coming in Game 2.

“Obviously it is disappointing that we were not able to pick up a win in the series,” said UT Martin coach Donley Canary. “This time of year you battle for every single win, and today we came up just short. I thought that we battled throughout both games, but just could not get over the hump. Hopefully our girls will build off the fight they showed in the later innings and use that as motivation as we look to finish strong and clinch a berth in the OVC Tournament.”

Jacksonville State (33-12, 18-4 OVC) notched 16 hits on the day but the day belonged to its ace pitcher. The Gamecocks turned to Harbin (14-6) who finished with 20 strikeouts, three hits allowed and zero runs in 9.2 innings of work, notching both a shutout victory and a 2.2 inning save on the day.

Game 1: Jacksonville State 3, UT Martin 0

Both teams struggled to get its offense going in the early parts of the game as the Skyhawks tallied just two hits in the first four innings of play, while the Gamecocks were held hitless.

The tide would finally change in the fifth inning when Jacksonville State would get in both the hit and run column in the top half of the inning. Hayden Crawford would lead off the inning with a single down the right field line before moving to second on a sacrifice bunt. She was soon come around to score when Ella Denes laced a double off the left center wall, bringing Crawford in for the first run of the game. An RBI single by Sara Borders would later score Denes from third base, ending the inning with a 2-0 lead.

The Gamecocks would strike for their final bit of insurance in the top of the seventh inning. Denes would come through with her second hit of the day, singling to left center, before advancing to second of a wild pitch. Taylor Sloan would bring the leadoff hitter around to score on the ensuing at bat with a triple down the left field line, just escaping the diving glove of Gonzales. With the run, the Gamecocks would ultimately win 3-0.

Game 2: Jacksonville State 7, UT Martin 5

Jacksonville State would strike first in Game 2 in the second inning. Amanda Maldonado led off the inning with a single up the middle before advancing to second on a wild pitch. Crawford would get going with a slow-roller to the shortstop, beating the throw to first while Maldonado moved to third on the play. The bases would become loaded following a steal by Crawford and a seven-pitch walk. With the bases loaded, Denes would ground out to third baseman Stephanie Nidiffer who fired home to get the out at the plate. The Gamecocks would score on the ensuing play off a fielder’s choice by Sloan.

The Gamecocks would strike again for two runs in both the third and fourth innings. Crawford would strike for an RBI double to left center before Melanie Steer drove in a run with an infield single to give the Gamecocks their two runs in the fourth.

Between the big innings from the Gamecocks, the Skyhawks got on the board in the bottom of the third. The run came quickly in the inning as Meckl drove a full-count pitch off the left field scoreboard for her third home run of the season. The solo home run trimmed the lead to 3-1.

Both Gamecock runs in the fourth inning came off an RBI double by Maldonado to score a run before an error allowed the second run to cross the plate in the inning. Jacksonville State would hold a 5-1 lead after four innings of play.

JSU would strike once again, pushing its lead out to five in the top of the fifth inning. After Steer reached base on a walk, she scampered around to score later in the inning off an RBI double to left field from Borders.

The Skyhawks would make thing interested in the bottom of the fifth inning, scoring four runs to cut into the Gamecocks’ margin. Gabby Glenn led off the inning with a single through the left side before Meckl came through with her second hit of the day, a single up the middle, to move Glenn into scoring position. A bloop single over the outstretched arm of the JSU infield, Samantha McClure would load the bases with no outs. Gonzales would put the Skyhawks on the board with an RBI single, scoring Glenn from third. Wade would reach on the next at bat following a fielder’s choice, as JSU nailed the baserunner at home for the first out of the inning.

With the bases still loaded and one out, the Skyhawks would look for more in the inning. Manning would hit another grounder to the third baseman, but an errant throw for the fielder to home resulted in two runs to score as Gonzales and McClure crossed the plate. The Skyhawks would register its final run of the inning with a blooper into right field off the bat of Vincent to score Wade. With the Gamecocks clinging to a 6-5 lead, they turned to their ace as Harbin appeared in relief. Harbin would extinguish the Skyhawk threat, tallying two outs to end the inning take the 6-5 lead into the sixth inning.

The Gamecocks would look for a bit of insurance in the top of the sixth inning. Savannah Sloan would single to the shortstop with one out before Crawford would drive in the runner from first with a double to right center.

Trailing by two heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Skyhawks looked make things interesting. Gonzales tallied a leadoff double down the left field line to quickly get into scoring position. Gonzales would move to third on Wade’s following at bat on a wild pitch. Manning would gut out a tough at bat by drawing a walk on the appearance’s ninth pitch of the at bat. With runners on first and third with one out, Harbin turned to what she knew best, tallying two of her 20 strikeouts on the day on the next two batters to end the threat and seal the 7-5 victory.

UT Martin will look to bounce back from the tough weekend on Tuesday, April 22 when the Skyhawks play host to in-state rival Middle Tennessee. Action from Bettye Giles Field is scheduled for 4 p.m.

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