MARTIN, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech softball team battled until the end but narrowly fell against top-seed UT Martin, 2-1, on Saturday afternoon at Bettye Giles Field in Martin, Tenn.
After entering the OVC Tournament as the sixth seed, the Golden Eagles showed how much they had improved over the course of the season as they defeated third-seed Morehead State, fourth-seed Eastern Illinois and fifth-seed Murray State in the first two days of the tournament to set up Saturday's meeting with the Skyhawks.
Tech finished its 2010 season with a 28-30 overall record after winning 10 of the team's last 14 games. The Golden Eagles compiled an 11-12 record in conference play during the regular season and will take a third place finish in the OVC Tournament.
UT Martin (47-10) advances to play Jacksonville State in the championship game of the double-elimination OVC Tournament.
The Golden Eagles showed a great amount of effort on Saturday, especially considering that the team had played four games in the past two days – two of which lasted longer than three hours. Those two contests were Tech's only games this season to go over three hours.
Sophomore starter Holly Thomas threw more than 450 pitches over the course of the tournament. She started Saturday's game and went the distance roughly 12 hours after pitching seven relief innings against Eastern Illinois on Friday. For the tournament, the second-team all-OVC selection was 3-1 with a 1.45 ERA and 18 strikeouts, while pitching three complete games.
At the plate, junior catcher Callie Schmidt carried the load for Tech during the tournament as she led the team with a .333 batting average, one home run and seven RBIs. Her seven runs batted in brought her season total to 43, the eighth most in a single season in TTU history.
After a scoreless first inning on Saturday, the Skyhawks put two runs on the scoreboard in their half of the second to take the early lead.
Tech threatened in the fourth inning with runners on the corners and two outs, but UT Martin starter Kate Vanderham was able to induce a groundball to get out of the jam and keep TTU off the board.
Opportunity struck in the fifth inning for the Golden Eagles as Tech was able to take advantage of a pair of UTM errors to close the gap. Friday night's hero Brittney Spalding reached on an error to start the inning and took second on a passed ball. Kaleigh Gates then reached on an error by the catcher, putting runners on first and third with no outs. Two batters later, Melody Christian's RBI groundout plated Spalding and brought the Golden Eagles to within one, 2-1.
Thomas kept Tech's deficit at one run as she retired the Skyhawks in order in the bottom of the sixth, but the Golden Eagles were unable to come up with another run to tie the game in the top of the seventh as they fell by a single run.
Thomas (16-14) was charged with the loss after striking out four and allowing two earned runs over six innings in the circle.
Schmidt and Chanelle Spalding were the only two Tech players to muster a hit off of Vanderham, who improved to 16-3 this season. Schmidt was 1-for-2 with a walk, while Spalding finished 1-for-3.
Head coach Tory Acheson finished his 12th season at the helm of the TTU softball program with a 28-30 record. With no seniors on Tech's 2010 roster, all 21 players will be eligible to return next season.