CHARLESTON, Ill. – The University of Tennessee at Martin softball team made their second consecutive OVC Tournament championship game appearance, but their quest for their second straight NCAA Tournament fell just short as the Skyhawks fell to No. 6 seed Jacksonville State 2-0 on Sunday afternoon.
The matchup looked familiar from the beginning as either UT Martin (37-20) or Jacksonville State has been the NCAA representative for OVC since 2008 after the Skyhawks won the tournament in 2009 and 2012.
UTM was led with hits by Kayla Wade, Lauren Smith and Casey Vincent, each tallying one respectively.
Vincent toed the rubber for the Skyhawks, tossing five innings and striking out two while allowing two runs. Freshman Autumn Glenn pitched the sixth inning in relief, allowing just one hit.
The Skyhawks placed three players on the All-Tournament team as sophomores Kenzi Tate and Smith along with junior Wade received recognition for the superior play in their six games played. The trio joins Ashleigh Westover (Eastern Illinois), Samantha Stanicek (SIU Edwardsville), Raquel Howes (Eastern Kentucky), Ellyn Troup (Murray State), Mo Ramsey (Murray State), Hayden Crawford (Jacksonville State), Kelci Johnston (Jacksonville State), Krystal Ruth (Jacksonville State and Most Valuable Player Tiffany Harbin (Jacksonville State) on the tournament squad.
“I’m so proud of the way our girls competed throughout this tournament,” said UT Martin head coach Donley Canary. “After dropping that first game, it makes for a very difficult path to even get to this point but this group of girls kept fighting and never gave up. When you look at the tournament that Kayla, Kenzi, Lauren and Deven had, you can’t help but be proud of those girls as they produced through the entire tournament. Look at Casey as she fought through an injury and completely gave her all for her team. Our group of seniors held the team together through the ups and downs of the season to bring us to this point and I tip my hat to Becca, Leah, and Katie. Our team is young and I believe they will get the taste of what championship play is like and we’ll be back.”
The Skyhawks and Gamecocks were locked in a strong pitchers’ duel from the beginning of the OVC Championship game. Neither pitcher yielded it’s first hit until the fourth inning as the Gamecocks’ Savannah Sloan led off with a single through the left side.
Vincent held tough for the Skyhawks as JSU stayed scoreless until the bottom of the fifth when the home team on the scoreboard began the game with a single into left field. The Gamecocks would move the runners with a sacrifice bunt before the first baserunner crossed the plate on a wild pitch giving JSU the 1-0 lead.
Kayla Wade led off the top of the sixth with a single into left field. Leah Taylor laid down a well-placed sacrifice bunt moving the speedster into scoring position with one out. Wade would eventually move to third base before being stranded to end the inning.
The Gamecocks would add another run in the bottom of the sixth as a solo home run down the left field line chased Vincent from the game and gave JSU the eventual ending result of 2-0.