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May 7, 2013

Golden Eagles take on SIUE Wednesday in first game of OVC Tournament


Click here for the 2013 tournament bracket (PDF)

CHARLESTON, Ill. -- One of the first things fans will notice this week when arriving at the Ohio Valley Conference tournament at Eastern Illinois will be the purple and gold Tennessee Tech trailer and tent just outside the stadium.

Tech fans and alumni will have a chance to visit and enjoy refreshments before and after the games as the Golden Eagles bid for another conference championship.

And, upon entering the field, what the fans will find is a Golden Eagle team ready for the rigors of the tournament. Despite heading into the eight-team gathering as the No. 7 seed, coach Bonnie Bynum's team will attack the long odds with confidence and a long tradition of tourney success.

Tech (22-26/11-11 OVC) opens play Wednesday with an early afternoon contest against league newcomer and No. 2 seed SIU Edwardsville. First pitch of the game is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

Being seeded near the bottom of the field won't deter Bynum and her scrappy squad from waging a fight. Last season, seeded No. 6 in the six-team affair, the Golden Eagles worked their way all the way back from a first-round loss, defeating ever other team in the field including No. 1 seed UT Martin in the winner's bracket final. That Tech victory forced an "if necessary" second championship game, which the Skyhawks eventually claimed, 6-2.

It was a typical outing for Tech, which has found its way to the championship game 10 times in the past.

Host Eastern Illinois is the top seed in the event, and will host No. 8 Morehead State at 3 p.m. In the other first round games No. 3 Eastern Kentucky meets No. 6 Jacksonville State at 10 a.m., and No. 4 Murray State plays No. 5 UT Martin at 5:30 p.m.

If Tech wins Wednesday, the Golden Eagles meet the EKU-JSU winner at 12:30 p.m. If the Golden Eagles are tripped by SIUE on Wednesday, Tech will face the the EKU-JSU loser at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Tech, which plays in the OVC East Division, met West Division SIUE just twice this season, with the Cougars claiming both games in Edwardsville, 3-0 and 3-2. In the opening loss, SIUE pitcher Haley Chambers struck out 13 batters and allowed just two hits. In the second game, Tech managed eight hits but the Golden Eagles left 11 runners on base in the one-run loss.

Senior Melody Christian, who was named Tuesday night to the second-team all-OVC squad, leads the Golden Eagles at the plate with a .368 batting average. She tops Tech in at bats (163), hits (60), runs scored (32), stolen bases (23) and on-base percentage (.380).

Junior Kendall Hooper (.284) is next on the batting chart, and is tied with senior Brittney Spalding (.234) for the team lead in the power department with four home runs apiece. Spalding has a team-best 12 doubles.

Hannah Eldridge, who is fourth on the team in batting with a .269 average, tops the team in RBI with 24. Hooper and senior Chanelle Spalding are next with 21 RBI each.

Four pitchers have stepped inside the circle for Tech this season, but sophomore Taylor Ketchum and senior Claudia Harke figure to see most of the tournament action. Ketchum leads Tech with a 15-10 record and 2.75 ERA, while Harke is 6-10 with a 3.87 ERA. Ketchum has tossed 142.2 innings and struck out 71 while allowed 34 walks. Harke has thrown 88.2 innings and chalked up 37 strikeouts with 26 walks.

The tournament will not be available for viewing on the OVC Digital Network due to technical problems at the venue. Golden Eagle fans will be able to follow the action via live stats on TTUsports