MARTIN, Tenn. – Senior right-handed pitcher Chris Ross pitched his best career game in a University of Tennessee at Martin uniform to help the Skyhawks soar past Saint Louis by a 9-2 margin at Skyhawk Field.
Making his 11th appearance and fourth start of the season, Ross was electric for most of the afternoon – tallying career-highs with six innings pitched and seven strikeouts. The Pembroke Pines, Fla. native conceded just two runs on six hits and one walk while firing 65 of his 99 pitches for strikes against a Billikens (23-15) squad that entered the game sitting atop the Atlantic 10 Conference standings.
“Chris delivered a very good start for us today,” UT Martin interim head coach Brad Goss said. “He did a good job of keeping Saint Louis off balance and working around a pair of errors in the fourth. He gave us a chance to win and that’s all we could have asked out of him.”
Ross (1-4) was given plenty of run support thanks to a six-run bottom of the second inning. Taylor Douglas provided the biggest hit of the game – a two-out grand slam that gave UT Martin its first lead of the contest.
Nick Molina went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a walk while Jake Deason also tallied two hits, two stolen bases, an RBI and a run scored. Chase Young also crossed the plate twice for the Skyhawks, who opened a season-long seven game homestand this afternoon.
Carter Smith, Alex Boshers and John Houston also cooled the Saint Louis bats today, each accounting for a scoreless inning out of the bullpen for UT Martin (5-33).
Ross set the tone early with a pair of strikeouts in the top of the first inning. He would dial up two more strikeouts in the top of the second before the Billikens took a brief 2-0 advantage.
The Skyhawks answered with a big inning in the bottom half of the second. Molina drew a one-out walk and advanced to second when Drew Erie shot a single to right field. The bases were then loaded after Zych reached on a fielder’s choice. UT Martin got on the scoreboard thanks to a wild pitch and Deason followed with a walk to load the bases once again. Balter then lifted a sacrifice fly to right that scored Erie and evened the score at 2-all. Following a walk to Young and a Saint Louis pitching change, Douglas crushed a 1-0 pitch beyond the wall in left center to give the Skyhawks a 6-2 lead they would not relinquish the rest of the day.
After another shutout frame from Ross, Molina lined a double down the left field line to lead off the bottom of the third. Molina would eventually move up on a wild pitch and come around to score when Deason delivered a clutch RBI single up the middle to make the score 7-2.
Despite a pair of errors, Ross posted another scoreless frame in the fourth and that allowed the Skyhawk to build upon their lead even more. Young split the gap in right center for a double to begin the bottom of the fourth and would advance to third on a deep fly ball off the bat of Taylor Cox. Young then crossed the plate on a wild pitch to provide UT Martin with an 8-2 lead after four innings of play.
Ross pitched around a one-out double in the fifth and a leadoff single in the sixth, ending his game with a strikeout to cap off the bottom of the sixth.
Smith was aided by a double play in his lone inning of work in the top of the seventh. After the seventh inning stretch, the Skyhawks tacked on one more run when Upton laced a leadoff double and six pitches later, Molina drove him in with a single up the middle.
Boshers did a good job of working around a leadoff double in the eighth to post a scoreless inning. Houston then slammed the door on any potential Saint Louis comeback with a strikeout and pair of groundouts in the top of the ninth.
The Skyhawks will step out of Ohio Valley Conference play this weekend, hosting Missouri State on April 25-27.