ATLANTA, Ga. – The University of Tennessee at Martin softball team would fall just short to regional host Georgia State 6-5 in an offensive battle in the opening round of the Postseason National Invitational Softball Championship on Tuesday evening.
The Skyhawks (39-19) would outhit the Panthers on the evening with nine hits while hitting a pair of home runs. Three different players would tally multi-hit performances led by Gracyn McBride, Lauren Myers and Renate Meckl while Carly Gonzales, Jodie Duncan and Rachel Williams also recorded base knocks.
In the pitching circle it was Brooke Kennedy (23-8) who suffered the loss after issuing five walks and allowing six earned runs in 4.1 innings of work. Freshman Seeley Layne would also appear, allowing just one base runner in 1.2 innings of scoreless relief.
Georgia State would jump out to an early advantage in the bottom of the first behind a big two-run blast. A two-out walk would continue the inning for the Panthers before the team’s top slugger in Megan Litumbe who turned on a 3-2 pitch and drove the ball over the left field wall and off the roof of the hitting facility to make it a 2-0 lead.
UT Martin would begin to fight back in the top of the third. Meckl would lead off the inning with a single to shortstop before advancing to second on a well-placed sacrifice bunt by Savannah Dodson. With a runner in scoring position, Gonzales would push her school-record on-base streak to 34 games with a two-run home run down the left field line to tie it up. A pair of singles by McBride would continue the frame before being pulled for pinch runner Gabby Zizzi. With the speedster off the bench, Zizzi would scamper home to score on a RBI single up the middle by Duncan to give the squad a 3-2 lead.
The lead for the Skyhawks would be short lived however as the Panthers answered back in the bottom half of the inning. Georgia State would load the bases in the third before a two-run single over the leaping glove of Duncan at third base gave the home squad a 4-3 advantage.
The score would continue to fluctuate in the top of the fourth as Williams led off the inning with a single to right. The single would prove costly after a sac bunt by Aeron Smith moved the runner into scoring position for Meckl who laced a single up the middle to tie the game at 4-4.
The contest would remain tied until the bottom of the fifth inning when a familiar bat found her stroke. Following a leadoff walk much like the first inning, Litumbe would tally her second two-run blast of the game, sending the eventual game-winning blast right over the left field foul pole to make it a 6-4 score.
The Skyhawks would look for a final rally in the top of the seventh inning. Down to her last strike, McBride would battle tough, stringing together a double-figure pitch count before stroking a solo home run over the left center wall. Despite the home run the Skyhawks would get no closer than the final margin of 6-5.
UT Martin will now look to find some magic out of the consolation bracket with a matchup against Alabama State on Wednesday, May 17. First pitch from Bob Heck Field is scheduled for 1 p.m.