By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
AUBURN, Ala. – The Tennessee Tech softball team closes out its three day stay in Alabama unable to put its first win on the board as the Golden Eagles wrapped up day three of the Plainsman Invite with a pair of losses to host Auburn, 8-4, and Louisiana-Monroe, 7-0.
Tech (0-5) had its opportunities throughout the afternoon, but late rallies by both the Eagles (4-1-1) and Warhawks (3-2) plagued TTU's chances at putting a check mark in the win column for the first time in 2014.
In the opener, the Golden Eagles found themselves trailing 5-1 to Auburn heading into the top of the sixth, but the bats came alive to the tune of two runs to jump right back into the thick of things. Sophomore Olivia Bennett kicked off the scoring, blasting a solo home run to left center to cut the deficit to 5-2.
Bennett has now popped two round trippers in the first five games for Tech, while recording her second multi-hit performance of the young season after going 2-for-3 against the Tigers.
The Golden Eagles weren't finished in the sixth, plating a two-out run thanks to an Alyssa Richards RBI double, scoring junior Hannah Eldridge, who had walked one batter earlier. Richards matched Bennett's 2-for-3 showing with one of her own, knocking in two runs as well after getting Tech on the board with a run-scoring single in the top of the fourth.
Now down 5-3 going into the bottom of the sixth, Auburn put some breathing room between itself and TTU, scoring three crucial runs to break the contest open at 8-3. The Tigers smacked two home runs in the frame, with red-shirt junior Morgan Estell blasting a solo shot with one out in the inning off Tech starter Hannah Weaver, and junior Brandi Melero using a two-run home run off junior Taylor Ketchum to essentially put the game out of reach with just one inning to play.
The two Auburn round trippers made it back-to-back frames in which the Tigers hit two home runs in an inning, after freshman Kasey Cooper and junior McKenzie Kilpatrick did the honors in the bottom of the fifth.
Despite allowing three of the four long balls in her outing, sophomore Hannah Weaver gave the Golden Eagles length in her first start of the season, tossing 5.1 innings, surrendering six earned on nine hits to suffer her first loss of the year.
The Golden Eagles did notch a run in the top of the seventh on an Angi Sakamoto home run off Aubrun starter Marcy Harper, as the junior from Waipahu, Hawaii matches Olivia Bennett for the team lead with two round trippers on the year.
Harper earned the win for the Tigers with a complete game effort, surrendering four earned on five hits for the sophomore's third victory of the season.
In the late game, Tech had an opportunity to seize its first win of the season, trailing Louisiana-Monroe 1-0 with still three innings left to play. Despite not scoring a run yet, freshman hurler Danielle Liberatore kept the Golden Eagles in the hunt by allowing only one run while scattering four hits through the first four frames.
The Warhawks would go on to pad their lead late, plating one in the fifth, two in the sixth, and three in the seventh to put the contest on ice. Four of the six runs in the final three innings were unearned as Tech made a pair of costly errors to aid the ULM scoring barrage.
The big Warhawk hits came off the bat of freshman Vanessa Garcia, who drove in a run with a double in the fifth, and sophomore Faith Bohack, who knocked in two with a single to center in the seventh.
Liberatore was tagged with her second loss of the season with a complete game performance, surrendering seven runs, however only three of which were earned.
Offensively, the Golden Eagles couldn't seem to figure out red-shirt senior Samantha Hamby. The Monroe, La. native, who recorded the win against Tech back on Friday, went the distance, giving up just three hits to improve to 2-1.
TTU sets its sights on its second tournament of the year next weekend, traveling to Woodstock, Ga. for the Phyllis Rafter Memorial Tournament hosted by Kennesaw State. The Golden Eagles will match up with Southeastern Louisiana and Northern Kentucky on Saturday, March 15, before locking up with Akron and Kennesaw State on Sunday, March 16.