By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Late-inning heroics for the Tennessee Tech softball team led to a split against SIUE on Saturday as the Golden Eagles took the day's first game 3-2 in the ninth inning, then rallied in a 10-8 defeat in the nightcap.
Tech (16-20, 10-11 Ohio Valley Conference) and SIUE meet up for the rubber game of the series on Sunday. First pitch is slated for 1 p.m. with the game broadcast on ESPN+ (subscription required).
The visiting Cougars (9-20, 9-14 OVC) took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first. Amber Storer hit a ball into left field for a single, but a fielding error allowed two runs to cross as Zoe Schafer and Lexi King came home.
After that, Haeli Bryson went the distance and shut the door on SIUE, yielding just four more hits in the contest.
From there, Bryson and SIUE starter Sydney Baalman dueled, neither one relenting as the game wore on into extra innings. The Cougars threatened in the top of the ninth as Becca Duran singled to left, Rachael Quaritsh bunted her over to second, then Micah Arps was hit by a pitch. Bryson was able to coax Bailley Concatto to fly out to center field, stranding two and ending the inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, Bryson hit a one-out double to short, bouncing in front of the fielder and into the field. McCulley was hit by the second pitch of her at-bat, then, with pinch-runner Chandler Caldwell, the duo executed a double steal to get into scoring position. Facing a 1-2 count, Penning put a grounder into the infield. SIUE looked for a play to make, but couldn't as Caldwell was running and scored the winning run.
Bryson earned her seventh win in the complete-game effort, allowing two runs – one earned – on seven hits as she walked one and struck out two. Her counterpart, Baalman, took the tough-luck loss, allowing three runs on five hits, walking none and striking out four.
With one round-tripper in game one, the Golden Eagles decided to hit three more in game two to make a run at the Cougars.
Tech took the early 1-0 lead in the first as Bryson executed a perfect bunt down the first-base line, bringing Fitzgerald home to roost. However, SIUE countered with three runs in the second as Quaritsch scored on a throwing error on a stolen base, Arps scored on Concatto's double to left, then Concatto scored on a fielding error at short.
SIUE added three more runs to make it a 6-1 game in the fourth as King hit a two-run double down the left field line to score Alana Cobb-Adams and Concatto, then a single and a sacrifice fly brought King home.
Tech lifted starter Alyssa Arden and gave Kendall Durard a chance to try to slow down the Cougars. SIUE answered with a single run in the fifth as King drove in Cobb-Adams with a single to first base, a throwing error giving her enough room to cross. Another run crossed in the sixth as Duran picked up an RBI on a sacrifice fly.
The Golden Eagles got a leadoff home run from Love-Baker in the sixth, but SIUE put two more runs on in the seventh as Cobb-Adams and Schafer picked up RBI singles.
Tech made it interesting once more in the bottom of the seventh. Fitzgerald singled to third base and Bryson took a full-count walk. With two down, Paxton Grimes went yard with her first career home run, making it a 10-8 game. Emily Ingles, however, forced a grounder to end the scoring threat and the game.
Arden took the loss, allowing four earned runs and six total on eight hits as she walked five and struck out three in 4 2/3 innings. Durard pitched 2 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs – four total – on four hits, walking two and striking out none.
King started the contest and pitched 3 2/3 frames, allowing four runs on five hits, walking two and striking out four to get her second win of the season. Ingles was reentered into the lineup in relief and threw the final 3 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on four hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
Photo | Jim Dillon