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February 21, 2014

Golden Eagles win pair of thrillers to make it three straight

By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Resiliency was the name of the game for the Tennessee Tech softball team on Friday. Despite surrendering late inning leads in each game of the Frost Classic hosted by UT Chattanooga, the Golden Eagles (3-7) found a way to prevail in each affair, taking out Toledo, 5-3, and undefeated Ohio, 6-5, in extra innings.

Sophomore Madison Taylor provided the Golden Eagles two biggest hits of the afternoon, driving in Tech's two game winners with go-ahead two-run singles in the sixth inning of game one, and the eighth inning of game two.

Tech has now won three games in a row after suffering a seven-game losing streak to begin the season.

TTU junior Hannah Eldridge helped push the Golden Eagles to a 2-0 advantage early in the opener against Toledo (1-5), knocking in senior Kendall Hooper with a double in the first and then driving Hooper in again with a sacrifice fly in the third.

Freshman starting pitcher Danielle Liberatore (1-3) made the lead stand over the first five innings, blanking the Rockets until the top of the sixth when Toledo struck back.

The Rockets put their first two runners on with singles by sophomore Jessica Lemieux and senior Lani Ernst, before plating their first run with a base hit up the middle by senior Erin Wright, scoring Lemieux and moving Ernst to third.

One batter later Toledo knotted up the tilt, thanks to a sacrifice fly off the bat of freshman Chandler Rice to bring around Ernst.

The Golden Eagles wasted no time in bouncing back, coming up with three runs in the bottom half of the sixth, starting things off with an Eldridge double, the shortstop's second two-bagger of the game. A dropped third strike on junior Angi Sakamoto and a walk to senior Chelsea Burgess loaded the bases with no one out, before sophomore Madison Taylor gave Tech a two-run lead with a single through the right side to plate both Eldridge and Sakamoto.

Two batters later, sophomore Cortney Fry gave TTU a crucial insurance run, knocking a single into left center to score Burgess, putting the Golden Eagles ahead 5-2.

Leading by three going into the top of the seventh, sophomore pitcher Hannah Weaver (1-2) pushed Tech to the finish line, allowing only one run to notch her first win of the season. The 5-5 righty from Corona, Calif. had entered the game in the top of the sixth, preserving the 2-2 tie by recording the final two outs of the frame, before wrapping things up an inning later.

Starter Danielle Liberatore was tabbed with a no-decision behind 5 1/3 innings of work, surrendering two earned runs on nine hits with two walks and three strikeouts. Toledo's Emily Anderson (1-3) suffered the loss, tossing six innings and allowing five earned runs on seven hits, walking three, and punching out six.

The Golden Eagles carried their momentum from the exciting opener right into the second game, handing Ohio University (8-1) its first loss of the season with a thrilling 6-5, extra inning victory.

Just like against Toledo, Tech found itself in control late, leading 4-1 entering the bottom of the sixth. TTU used a two-run single by Cortney Fry in the second, an Olivia Bennett single and an error to allow Kendall Hooper to score in the third, and a solo home run by Chelsea Burgess in the sixth to jump out to the three-run advantage.

The Burgess round tripper makes it three long balls in the last four games for the Dunlap, Tenn. native, breaking a tie with Angi Sakamoto and Olivia Bennett for the team lead with three long balls.

Down 4-1, the Bobcats trimmed into the deficit with two in the sixth, scoring on an RBI single up the middle by sophomore Savannah Jo Dorsey, and a double by junior Dakota Pyles.

Ohio completed the comeback an inning later, knotting a run in the last of the seventh on an Alexandria Basquez sacrifice fly, scoring sophomore Alexia Cortez, who reached to begin the frame on a dropped third strike, before advancing to second on a Casie Hutchinson sacrifice bunt, and moving to third on a passed ball.

Despite surrendering the lead, the Golden Eagles proved their resiliency once again, coming right back with two in the top of the eighth inning to take a 6-4 lead. Due to tournament rules, which allow each team to place a runner on second to begin each extra inning, the Golden Eagles had Olivia Bennett on second with no one out.

Hannah Eldridge officially began the inning with a fly out to left, which was followed by an Angi Sakamoto single to move pinch runner Christian Gibbs to third and Sakamoto to second on the throw, setting TTU up with runners on second and third and only one out.

Bobcat hurler Savannah Jo Dorsey retired the next Tech hitter on a foul out to third, but Madison Taylor came up once again in the clutch with a huge two-out, two-run single to push the Golden Eagles to the 6-4 edge.  

Ohio refused to go quietly in the bottom of the eighth after a base hit by junior Adrienne Gebele brought home freshman Madison Clayton, who was placed on second to begin the inning. A Savannah Jo Dorsey single complicated the matter for Tech's Hannah Weaver (2-2), who was attempting to secure her second win of the afternoon after entering the tilt in the seventh inning.

With runners now on at first and second and no one down in a 6-5 game, Weaver danced out of any further trouble by retiring the next three Bobcats in order, sending TTU to its third consecutive victory and Weaver to her second win on the day.

Tech starting pitcher Taylor Ketchum (0-2) was saddled with a no-decision, allowing just one unearned run in 3 2/3 innings of work, scattering five hits, walking two, and striking out one. Ohio's Dorsey took the loss, pitching all eight innings, giving up six runs (four earned) on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts.

Offensively, Angi Sakamoto was the only Golden Eagle to pick up at least two hits in the affair, while Chelsea Burgess reached base three times, scoring two runs as well.

TTU will look to continue its win streak on Saturday, squaring off with Campbell at 10 a.m. CT and Northwestern State at 3 p.m. CT.