By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Winners of five of the last six, the Tennessee Tech softball team gets set to play its second road series of the year on Saturday, traveling to East Carolina for a three-game set with the Pirates (8-4). The Golden Eagles (5-8) will play a doubleheader on Saturday with scheduled start times of 12 and 2 p.m. CT, before closing out the series on Sunday at 11 a.m. CT.
Tech enters the matchup on a heater after a very successful weekend in the 2014 Frost Classic hosted by UT Chattanooga. TTU took four out of five in the tournament, defeating Toledo and Ohio on Friday, Campbell on Saturday, and Radford on Sunday. Friday's 6-5 extra inning victory over Ohio, snapped the Bobcats perfect 8-0 record.
Coming up in the clutch seemed to be the name of the game all weekend for the Golden Eagles, as Tech rallied for three wins in the sixth inning or later, and the other nod came via a 1-0 victory over Radford in the Frost Classic finale.
Squared away at 3-3 against Toledo, Tech pushed two across in the top of the sixth behind a Madison Taylor two-run single that proved to be the difference maker in a 5-3 Golden Eagle win. The Taylor heroics would go on to be a theme of the weekend as the 5-2 lefty swinging outfielder knocked home the game-winner in Tech's extra inning thriller with Ohio, before delivering a go-ahead RBI triple in the ninth inning of the Golden Eagles' 6-5 extra inning victory over Campbell on Saturday.
Taylor was also responsible for the lone run in Tech's 1-0 nod over Radford, blasting her second home run of the season in the bottom of the first. The Mt. Juliet, Tenn. native's outstanding stretch of three days netted her with the College Sports Madness Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week honor.
She is currently second on the team with a .275 batting average, tied for second with two round trippers, and sits atop the Golden Eagles with eight runs batted in. Senior Kendall Hooper leads Tech with a .310 batting average, while fellow senior Chelsea Burgess is the TTU home run leader with three long balls and is also tops with nine runs scored and a .600 slugging percentage.
In the circle, freshman Danielle Liberatore (3-3) had her best weekend of her young collegiate career, going a perfect 2-0 in Chattanooga in three appearances. The 5-10 lefty hurler went all nine innings against Campbell, earning the win with 13 strikeouts, the fourth most in Tech history. The Peotone, Ill. native followed up that showing with a two-hit shutout against Radford, coming within four outs of a no-hitter before surrendering a bunt single two outs into the sixth inning.
In total, Liberatore tallied a miniscule 1.64 ERA in the Frost Classic, allowing just five earned runs in 21 1/3 innings, punching out 21 batters as well. She currently leads the Golden Eagles in wins (3), ERA (3.50), and strikeouts (36).
As far as East Carolina is concerned, the Pirates come into the series just as hot as TTU, having won six of their past seven.
ECU is coming off a stellar 3-1 showing in the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic in Kissimmee, Florida, highlighted by a thrilling 5-4 victory in the finale against Fairfield. In a game that saw four lead changes in the final two innings, red-shirt junior Abby Wynne brought home the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh.
An inning earlier, the Pirates finally got on the scoreboard thanks to a three-run home run by senior Jordan Lewis, pushing East Carolina to a 3-1 advantage. The round tripper was the third of the season for Lewis and 17th for her career to put her in a tie for eighth most in program history.
Lewis is currently second on the team with a .467 batting average, with junior Gabby Andino setting the pace with a .500 clip. Senior Alex Fieldhouse has the best power numbers of any Pirate, leading the club in home runs with four and RBI's with 16, hitting a solid .343 as well.
On the rubber, junior Sarah Christian is off to a fast start, leading the ECU charge with a 6-1 record and 2.53 ERA in 12 appearances this year.
The Golden Eagles have dropped four of the five previous matchups in the all-time series with East Carolina, with the two clubs last squaring off in Feb. 2005, a 4-0 Pirates win.