By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Late inning offense paved the way in the Tennessee Tech softball team's home opener, as the Golden Eagles took both games of a doubleheader against Holy Cross (1-3).
Trailing 7-4 late in game one, Tech (7-11) came up with three in the fifth and one more in the sixth to capture the contest 8-7, before coming up with eight runs in the final three innings of game two to earn an 8-0 win to complete the twin bill sweep.
The Golden Eagles received big performances in game one by freshman Alyssa Richards and sophomore Olivia Bennett, who each went a perfect 3-for-3 with a combined three extra base hits and five RBI's.
TTU's bats heated up late in game two, but junior starting pitcher Taylor Ketchum (1-2) was equally as impressive in pitching a complete game shutout to propel the Golden Eagles to the doubleheader sweep.
After Tech's Hannah Weaver (2-4) and the Crusaders' Julia Barrett (0-1) combined to give up one run from inside the circle over the first two and a half innings of game one, the Golden Eagles exploded for three in the bottom half of the third to take a 3-1 lead.
Sophomore Madison Taylor began the rally with a one-out single down the right field line, before promptly stealing second to move into scoring position with Alyssa Richards at the dish. The Italy, Texas native broke the scoreless tie with a two-run home run to left field, her first of her collegiate career to give the Golden Eagles a 2-1 advantage.
Three batters later with junior Hannah Eldridge on first, sophomore Olivia Bennett smacked a double into the left center field gap, bringing Eldridge all the way around from first to push Tech to a 3-1 lead.
Bennett's RBI double would be the first of three two-baggers throughout the course of the day, as the 5-4 outfielder from Mentone, Calif. went a combined 4-for-5 with three RBI's and two runs scored.
After a Holy Cross solo home run off the bat of senior Sarah Free put the Crusaders within one in the top of the fourth, TTU came right back with a round tripper of its own, with sophomore Samantha Cook touching them all to begin the bottom half of the frame, giving Tech a 4-2 edge.
The long ball was the first of Cook's two-year Golden Eagle career, as she would go on to have a big double dip with a triple and two RBI's in game two.
Trailing 4-2 heading into the top of the fifth, Holy Cross put together a big frame to jump back on top for the first time since the early stages of the affair. With two outs and a runner on third, senior Alex Gustafson put the Crusaders within a run thanks to an RBI single that scored freshman Emily Krisanda.
Now down 4-3, a Sarah Free single put runners on first and second, signaling the end of Hannah Weaver's day on the rubber. Enter junior Erica Tuck (1-1), who was greeted with a run-scoring double off the bat of Abigail Lang, squaring the score at 4-4.
Pinch hitter Becky Geddes followed the Lang two-bagger with a two-run single into left center, giving Holy Cross a 6-4 advantage. Freshman Kylee Malouf capped off the Crusaders' scoring with a run-scoring knock, putting some space between Tech with a 7-4 lead.
The Golden Eagles showed resiliency in the bottom of the fifth, coming right back with a three-spot to knot the score at 7-7. Alyssa Richards kicked off the comeback trail with a leadoff single through the left side, the freshman's second hit of the game.
Senior Kayla Floyd came on to pinch run for Richards, and after swiping second, the Columbia, Tenn. native moved to third on a fly out from senior Chelsea Burgess. Following a hit-by-pitch to junior Hannah Eldridge that put runners on the corners with one down, Olivia Bennett singled into left field to bring around Floyd, cutting the deficit to 7-5.
The Bennett knock ended Julia Barrett's day inside the circle as Holy Cross head coach Brian Claypool called on junior Tori Cheske (0-1) with runners on first and second and one out.
A sacrifice bunt from red-shirt junior Christian Gibbs, moved Eldridge to third and Bennett to second, which was followed by a Samantha Cook walk to load the bases with two away. Up stepped sophomore Cortney Fry, who came up huge with a single into right field, plating both Eldridge and Bennett to tie the game at 7-7.
With the game still squared away going into the bottom of the sixth, Madison Taylor led off the frame with a double over the center fielder's head to immediately put the go-ahead run in scoring position. Moments later with Alyssa Richards at the plate, Taylor advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Richards completed her best game as a Golden Eagle, singling down the left field line for her third hit of the game, bringing across Taylor to give Tech an 8-7 advantage.
Erica Tuck made the slim lead stand in the top of the seventh, setting the Crusaders down in order for her first win of the season after going the game's final 2 1/3 innings, giving up two runs (zero earned), on three hits. Tech starter Hannah Weaver ended her day with 4 2/3 innings tossed, surrendering five runs (two earned) on seven hits, walking two, and striking out six.
Tori Cheske suffered the loss in relief, throwing 1 2/3 innings, giving up seven earned on nine hits.
Game two featured a pitcher's duel for the first three and a half innings of play, with Tech's Taylor Ketchum and the Crusaders' Gennifer Durham (1-1) exchanging zeroes up until the bottom of the fourth when Tech broke the scoreless tie.
Olivia Bennett did the honors with a one-out double to left center, scoring Chelsea Burgess all the way from first base to push TTU to a 1-0 lead.
The Golden Eagles proceeded to score two in the fifth behind a two-run home run by Madison Taylor, the sophomores third of the season, before wrapping up the game with five in the sixth to give Tech a mercy rule victory with an eight-run lead after at least five innings of play.
A two-run pinch hit single by red-shirt sophomore Mekenzie Weems accounted for the Golden Eagles' first two-runs of the sixth, before Samantha Cook drove in two more with a triple to right center, ultimately leading to a Cortney Fry single that gave Tech the win.
Ketchum held up her end of the bargain in the pitcher's duel, going the distance and blanking Holy Cross for her first victory of the year. The 6-0 junior from Newcastle, Okla. allowed only four hits and tallied four strikeouts as well to send Tech to the perfect 2-0 day.
Gennifer Durham was tagged with her first loss of the 2014 campaign, surrendering five earned over five innings.
The Golden Eagles will now embark to Athens, Ga. to participate in the Sixth Annual Bulldog Invitational hosted by the University of Georgia over the weekend. TTU will face off with Purdue and Georgia on Friday, Purdue for a second time and Kent State on Saturday, before closing out the tournament with a second matchup with Kent State on Sunday.