By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – With the regular season just over two weeks from coming to a close, the Tennessee Tech softball team continues its push at an OVC Tournament berth with 10 games remaining in its slate. On Friday, Apr. 18 the Golden Eagles (15-31, 7-10) will embark to UT Martin (22-19-1, 9-6) for a doubleheader with the Skyhawks, before traveling to Southeast Missouri (7-25, 2-12) for a twin bill on Saturday, Apr. 19. Both double dips begin at 12 p.m. CT.
Tech enters the quartet of games on a heater, fresh off a three-game series sweep over in-state rival Tennessee State on Apr. 12-13. TTU controlled all facets of the game throughout the weekend set, outscoring the Tigers 23-2 over the three contests, outhitting them 32-11, and the Golden Eagles did not commit a single error in the series as well.
The sweep catapulted Tech right into the thick of things in the OVC playoff race, as the Golden Eagles jumped up to seventh place with the top eight teams making it into the tournament.
Senior Kendall Hooper paved the way throughout the trio of tilts, going 5-for-12 with six RBI in the series. Coupled with a two home run showing on Apr. 8 against No. 4 Tennessee, Hooper took home the adidas® Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week honor after hitting .467 (7-15) with 10 RBI, six runs scored, and three doubles for the week.
The Hermitage, Tenn. has driven in at least one run in seven consecutive games, one of two impressive streaks by a Golden Eagle of late. Junior Angi Sakamoto is on a season-high 15-game hitting streak, jumping her average to a team-leading .318. Sakamoto also leads the club with 26 RBI, while the 5-foot-5 outfielder's five round trippers is tied with Hooper for tops on TTU.
Sakamoto has also paced the Golden Eagles with a .389 batting average during conference play, one of five Tech players hitting above .300 throughout OVC action. Senior Kayla Floyd is batting .364, Hooper comes in at .347, sophomore Madison Taylor is hitting .327, and freshman Alyssa Richards is off to a .314 start.
Freshman Danielle Liberatore (8-10) is putting up similar success from inside the circle during conference play, posting a 5-2 record with a 2.91 ERA in eight OVC appearances. The Peotone, Ill. native is on an absolute tear in her last three conference starts, tossing three complete game victories, allowing just one run and only 10 hits in 21 total innings of work, while striking out 20 batters over the stretch.
UT Martin gets set to host the Golden Eagles after the Skyhawks were shutout in all three-games of a weekend series at Eastern Illinois on Apr. 12-13. UTM pitching gave up only five runs in the set, but the Martin bats came up with just four hits in dropping its conference record to 9-6, three games ahead of TTU.
The Skyhawks are currently third in the OVC in earned run average, posting a team ERA of 2.82. UTM has had four pitchers that have logged at least 30 innings this season, all of which have ERA's of under 2.85, led by freshman Brooke Kennedy's 1.58. Fellow freshman Elizabeth Wiegand leads the staff with 10 wins and 62 strikeouts.
Offensively, senior Kayla Wade has set the bar with a .341 batting average to lead the Skyhawks, while sophomore Deven Wilson leads the team with 21 RBI and junior Lauren Smith is tops on UTM with five home runs.
Tech leads the all-time series with Martin, 43-29, which includes a split of last season's pair of games in Cookeville.
Southeast Missouri will welcome in the Golden Eagles after a tough-three game series at SIU Edwardsville on Apr. 12-13 in which the Redhawks managed only two runs in the set, falling 10-0, 9-2, and 3-0.
SEMO has dropped eight consecutive games and 11 of the last 12, but the Redhawks do possess the OVC leader in batting average in sophomore Savannah Carpenter, who is hitting .448 this season. Junior Haylee Krack is tied for third in the conference with seven long balls, also leading SEMO with 21 RBI.
The Golden Eagles have a slight edge in the all-time series with the Redhawks, 42-38, which includes a TTU sweep in last year's doubleheader at Tech Softball Field. The Golden Eagles captured the first game, 9-1, thanks in part to a pair of home runs by sophomore Olivia Bennett and Angi Sakamoto. Tech was victorious, 4-0, in the second game, with Kendall Hooper and junior Hannah Eldridge teaming up to knock in all four of TTU's runs.
Live video via the OVC Digital Network is available for Friday's doubleheader with UT Martin by CLICKING HERE.