MARTIN, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin softball team used big early innings and late rallies along with numerous lead changes to outlast Ohio Valley Conference rival Austin Peay in both games of Friday’s doubleheader at Bettye Giles Field.
“We played well enough to win today. Our freshmen are going to play as you see three or four playing every day but it was great to see them step up and get big hits for us down the stretch in game one,” UT Martin head coach Donley Canary said. “We were our own worst enemy by not taking care of the ball. Thankfully we were able to bend without breaking and no matter how pretty the win comes, we will always take the result.”
Game One: UT Martin 8, Austin Peay 5
After seven lead changes and over an hour rain delay prior to first pitch, the Skyhawks scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take control of the lead and result.
Skyhawks (22-9, 6-2 OVC) wasted little time welcoming the Lady Govs to Bettye Giles Field for the conference home-opener as streaking sophomore Lauren Smith smashed her team-leading seventh home run of the season over the center field fence, giving UTM the early 3-0 lead.
The Lady Govs (10-14, 1-6 OVC) quickly responded with a home run of their own off the bat of Shelby Norton to knot the game at three-all in the top of the second inning. APSU added another run in the top half of the third as Marissa Lake came home on an infield error.
Junior Kayla Wade continued to put her mark on the game after swiping a bag in the first inning, by plating Mikala Torrence on an RBI triple past the diving centerfielder to tie the score at 4-4 and move herself into fifth place on UTM’s all-time triples list.
The Skyhawks landed the knockout blow in the bottom of the sixth inning as Smith led off the inning with a liner into left field. That’s when the freshman trio of Jessie Britt, Devin Wilson and Torrence made their statement. Britt drilled an RBI double into center field, plating pinch runner Kelsey Dixon before scoring a run of her own off a screaming double from Wilson. Torrence tallied the seventh run of the game with an RBI, scoring Lindsey Feigl.
Wade added her second hit of the game before swiping her third base of the afternoon in a double steal of second and third, scoring Samantha McClure for the final run of the game.
Sophomore Casey Vincent (9-4, 2.08 ERA) proved to be too much for yet another opponent as the lefty tossed her 11th complete game on the season while allowing just two earned runs on six hits. Vincent struck out five while issuing just one walk on the afternoon.
Game Two: UT Martin 4, Austin Peay 3
Sophomore Kenzi Tate (12-1, 2.52 ERA) proved just how dynamic of a player the Skyhawks have as she went a perfect 3-for-3 from the plate while notching her league leading 12th win on the season in the circle. Tate tallied her ninth complete game while allowing just one earned run and striking out three.
Both teams traded runs for most of the contest, leading to five lead changes in the game. Game two looked very similar to the first as the Skyhawks got on the board first. Torrence led off the inning by reaching on an error by the third baseman before advancing to second on a walk to Wade. Tate helped her cause by stinging a single down the right field line to plate Torrence. Smith then followed with a single of her own to the left side scoring Wade.
APSU once again responded in the top of the next inning by taking advantage of back-to-back errors to plate Kayla Davison and an infield RBI by Abby Guest to bring the game to a 2-2 score.
Senior All-American Leah Taylor quickly responded to APSU’s third inning score by launching a solo home run over the left field deck to tie the score at 3. Tate got her second hit of the game by doubling to left and eventually scoring off an RBI single up the middle by Becca Williams to take the 4-3 lead for the Skyhawks.
The Lady Govs made a last ditch effort in the top of the seventh before Tate got the groundout necessary to strand the tying and leading APSU runs at second and first respectively.
The Skyhawks and Lady Govs will return to action in the series finale tomorrow, Saturday, March 30 at noon. The game was originally scheduled for 1 p.m. but has been bumped up to adjust for anticipated weather that is set to hit the region Saturday afternoon.