April 25, 2014

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MARTIN, Tenn. – Taylor Douglas extended his hitting streak in a big way tonight, as the junior outfielder blasted a pair of home runs – including the go-ahead shot in the bottom of the eighth to send the University of Tennessee at Martin past Missouri State by a 4-3 margin at Skyhawk Field.

UT Martin matched its opponent from the Missouri Valley Conference pitch for pitch tonight. But ultimately it was a pair of swings from Douglas – who is hitting at a .523 clip (23-for-44) during his 11-game hitting streak – that got the Skyhawk offense rolling and put the finishing touches on UT Martin’s third straight home win.

Douglas had three hits for his team-leading 16th multi-hit game of the season and seventh 3-hit outing in the last 23 games. Freshmen outfielders Fletcher Johnson and Chase Young also had big two-out RBI’s tonight while Jake Deason and Mikey Nantze each crossed the plate for the Skyhawks (6-33).

Not to be outdone, the UT Martin pitching staff twirled quite a game this evening. Starting pitcher Taylor Cox battled tonight, allowing three runs with no walks against five strikeouts over six strong frames. Carter Smith (2-2) earned the victory in relief tonight after allowing just one base hit over two innings. John Houston notched his third save of the season after a dominant ninth inning where he fanned a pair of batters while firing 10 of his 13 pitches for strikes.

“Taylor Douglas is definitely in the zone right now,” Skyhawk interim head coach Brad Goss said. “He’s swinging the bat well and there’s no doubt that he’s carried us lately. On the pitching side of things, I thought we did a great job, especially out of the bullpen. John Houston was really good – that may have been one of his best outings yet.”

Cox pitched around a pair of Missouri State hits in the first inning, inducing a double play and inning-ending strikeout. Douglas then gave UT Martin its first lead of the game with a towering solo round tripper that cleared the centerfield wall in the bottom of the first.

The Bears got one run back in the top of the second and would take a 2-1 lead in the top of the third. However, Cox accounted for a pair of punchouts in a scoreless fourth, allowing the Skyhawks to reclaim the lead in the home half of the inning.

After two quick outs, Deason singled through the right side and advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw. Nantze was then hit by a pitch and three pitches later, Johnson ripped a single to right field and Deason made a nifty slide just under the tag at home plate to even the score at 2-all. Young then fought off a 1-1 pitch for an opposite field single just past the diving Missouri State third baseman, scoring Nantze and tilting the score back in UT Martin’s favor at 3-2.

Missouri State (18-20) would even the score once again in the top of the fifth but Cox retired the side in order in his sixth and final inning.

Smith pitched around a pair of Skyhawk errors in the top of the seventh, ending the inning with an emphatic called strikeout. The first two Bears reached base in the top of the eighth but Smith settled in and once again kept Missouri State off the scoreboard.

It was then Douglas’ time to shine once again. After working the count to 3-1, he turned on a fastball and sent it to the netting protecting the scoreboard in left field to put the Skyhawks back ahead, 4-3. It was the fifth longball in the last four games and team-high sixth round tripper of the season for the Holladay, Tenn. native.

Houston then mowed down the Bears in order in the top of the ninth, retiring the final two batters on strikeouts.

Game 2 of the three-game set is scheduled for Saturday, April 26 at 3 p.m.

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