MARTIN, Tenn. – The offensive explosion that the University of Tennessee at Martin baseball had been waiting for showed up in a big way on Tuesday evening in the Skyhawks’ 19-13 victory of regional foe Bethel. UT Martin used a 12-run outburst in the third inning to gain a big advantage before staving off a couple of Wildcat rallies en route to their sixth victory of the season.
Bethel (10-9) also found success on offense in the later innings, but were unable to find their way back from a huge early deficit. Head coach Rick Robinson credited a more aggressive and focused approach on offense to break from UT Martin’s (6-4) recent struggles at the plate.
“It was just one of those games where everything we hit seemed to drop in,” said head coach Rick Robinson. “It just shows us that as long as we concentrate on what we are doing and focus on taking good swings, then the ball will drop in for us. Lately, we have had way too many fly ball outs and strikeouts, but tonight we put the ball in play way more often and we were able to see the results.”
After a quiet first two innings for both teams, the Skyhawk bats woke up to the tune of 12 runs in the third, including a pair of three-run bombs from both Tyler Albright (1) and Creighton Eldridge (1). Albright also smacked an RBI-single to drive in a run to give him four RBI’s in the inning. Freshman JoJo Allen recorded two separate RBI-hits in the inning as he doubled in his first at-bat and singled to the left his second time through. Ryan Helgren, Dan Kerwin and Tanner Wessling also notched RBI-singles in the inning for UT Martin. In total the Skyhawk bats racked up 12 hits and raced out to a 12-0 lead through three.
Catcher Caleb Brewer notched both his first hit and his first RBI in the orange and blue in the fourth inning when he drove in Connor Aube to extend the Skyhawk lead to 13-0. The Wildcats responded in the fifth with four runs of their own as Christian Padin and Lucas Riddick picked up RBI-hits and Colin Roberts drove in a run on a groundout.
The Skyhawks rebounded in the bottom half of the inning as newcomer Creighton Eldridge (2) blasted his second three-run homer of the night deep over the right field wall to drive in Albright and freshman Anthony Adduci to put the Skyhawks out in front 16-4.
However, Bethel did not go away quietly. A six-run offensive showing of their own in the seventh trimmed the UT Martin lead to 16-10. Zachary Crocker’s double was the key hit in the inning driving in three Wildcat runs and keeping his team in the game. Roberts and Jack Surber also notched RBI-hits in the inning.
After a Helgren triple and an Eldridge walk to start the Skyhawk’s half of the seventh, a two-RBI double by Aube added some insurance for UT Martin and put the Skyhawks ahead 18-10. Aube later crossed the plate on a Wildcat throwing error to give them a decisive 19-10 advantage. Bethel replied with three runs in the ninth but reliever Peyton Cain ultimately shut the door to give UT Martin the 19-13 victory.
Freshman Winston Cannon (1-0) made his first career start tonight, as a pitch count limited the Cookeville, Tenn. native who tossed four shutout innings and was credited with then win. Hayden Edwards (2-3) was saddled with the loss for Bethel.
Offensively Albright (5-6, four RBI’s), Aube (4-4, two RBI’s and four runs scored), Eldridge (2-4, two homers and six RBI’s), Kerwin (2-3, one RBI), Helgren (2-6, one triple), and Allen (2-4, two RBI’s) all recorded multi-hit games as the Skyhawks piled up 21 total hits in the victory.
UT Martin will turn its attention to Ohio Valley Conference play beginning with a three-game set against Tennessee Tech starting this Friday, Mar. 10 at Skyhawk Field. First pitch between the two conference rivals is scheduled for 3 p.m.