By Erin Bean, Sports Information Intern
CHARLESTON, Ill. -- The Tennessee Tech softball team dropped a 4-3 decision to SIU Edwardsvillle Wednesday in the opening round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
Senior Melody Christian extended her hitting streak to sixteen games as one of five Golden Eagles to connect for a hit. Christian's hitting streak is the longest streak in the conference this season. The turning points of the game came from Chanelle Spalding and Angi Sakamoto. Down 3-1, Sakamoto launched a home run in the top of the fifth to spark a two-run comeback. Tech tied the contest, but never overcame the Cougars.
Senior Claudia Harke (6-11) took the loss, pitching a complete game. The lefty tossed three strikeouts, but gave up one Cougar home run.
The Ohio Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year Haley Chambers retired the Golden Eagles in order to open the contest. Christian called out as the slap hitter, dragged for a bunt and the ball hit her in fair territory for the first out.
Tech got the first out in the bottom of the first in style. SIUE's Chelsea Yankolovich drilled a line drive toward Harke, forcing the ball to bounce off her glove, right into the hands of Hannah Eldridge. A pop-up caught by Chanelle Spalding, brought OVC Player of the Year Alex McDavid to the plate. The sophomore grounded out to third, for a corners play by the Spalding Twins.
In the second, Brittney Spalding hit a long drive, it looked like it would go out, but the wind stole the home run. Chambers remained perfect, through two innings.
The Cougars were the first to reach base in the bottom of the second, as a tough ball got past Brittney Spalding for an error. Once on base, SIUE's Brittany Toney, stole second, remaining perfect on the season around the bases.
Harke followed with a rising pitch for her first called strikeout of the contest. Samantha Stanicek hit a single up the middle, but Tech's defense got to the ball quickly to hold SIUE's scoring run at third. Chambers laid down a bunt, hoping to for the first run, but dropped her bat right into the ball for the second out. Harke tossed another called strikeout, to strand two Cougars, ending the second scoreless.
Eldridge finally connected for a leadoff double in the third. The sophomore hit a high fly toward the left fence. Eldridge advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Cortney Fry, and scored on a hit by Christian. With the juices flowing, Kayla Floyd found a weak spot between short and third to put runners on first and second. Chanelle Spalding tried to follow suit but SIUE's Yankolovich jumped behind second base for a great snag to end the inning.
To open the bottom of the third, Chanelle Spalding made a great play of her own, fielding a hard hit grounder, seven feet from the bag and won the foot race for the first out of the inning. Yankolovich connected for another hard hit to the warning track. Tooley sent a line drive up the left line, to put two runners on and one out. With the threat of an answer, Tech's corner anchors again made the play for two outs. Toney had other plans, hitting a two RBI single allowing SIUE to answer immediately. Eldridge made the final out, ending the inning 2-1.
Kendall Hooper kept the Tech bats going with a single up the middle, and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Bennett. The tying run was in position, but Tech left her stranded.
SIUE's Stanicek reached on a base-hit but was replaced by Jill Rackers to run the bases. Chambers bunted on the next play, and in a bind for bad timing. The pitcher raced toward first, and collided with Fry trying to make the out. Chambers remained on the ground and was replaced by Hansen to run. Runners on the corners, Riggs collected an RBI but Tech got the out at first. Chanelle Spalding ended the frame, but SIUE remained ahead 3-1.
Despite the collision, Chambers returned to the circle and retired Fry in three pitches but Sakamoto stepped to the plate and blasted a home run off one of the toughest pitchers in the league. Back within striking distance, Tech returned to the top of the order. A clearly shaken Chambers left the circle and was replaced by Erin Greenwalt.
SIUE stumbled against the next two Golden Eagles placing Christian and Floyd, Tech's two best base runners, on first and second with one out. Chanelle Spalding drills a double to the Golden Eagles sweet spot in left field allowing Christian to score. Tech had two runners in the go ahead, but Jordan LaFave chased down a breaking ball by Brittney Spalding for the third out in centerfield.
With all the moment, a calm Harke remained in the circle and moved the game to the sixth inning only giving up one hit to McDavid.
In the bottom of the sixth, the leadoff batter Stanicek connected for a solo home run to give SIUE the 4-3 advantage. The Golden Eagles followed with a double play by Fry and Brittney Spalding. Fry tagged the runner and threw to first for the 4-3 double play.
The damage had been done, Greenwalt finished the Golden Eagles and got the save, retiring the top of the line-up.
The Golden Eagles remain alive, and will take on Eastern Kentucky in the losers bracket Thrusday at 10 a.m. CDT.