By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech softball team jumps right back into Ohio Valley Conference play this weekend, traveling to Murray State for a doubleheader on Saturday, before trekking to Austin Peay for a double dip on Sunday. Both twin bills are scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. CT.
The Golden Eagles (10-28, 2-8) took a brief break in their conference slate this past Wednesday, falling in both games of a doubleheader to Chattanooga, 12-1 and 3-1. Tech showed resiliency in the second tilt, nearly putting together a dramatic seventh-inning comeback after loading the bases with one out on a Kayla Floyd single, an Angi Sakamoto hit-by-pitch, and a Madison Taylor walk. Ultimately the comeback bid fell short, but the Golden Eagles did outhit the Lady Mocs, 7-5, in the contest.
Taylor reached base three times in the game, including two hits to bump her batting average to a club-leading .294. The sophomore outfielder out of Mt. Juliet, Tenn. has excelled thus far in conference play, hitting .357, also tops on TTU. Overall, Taylor also leads the Golden Eagles with 14 extra-base hits and is tied with senior Chelsea Burgess for the team high in runs scored with 19.
Burgess is coming off of a big conference series in Tech's last OVC set on Mar. 29-30 with Belmont. The Dunalp, Tenn. native hit .444 in the three-game series, driving in four RBI's and helping the Golden Eagles jump out to quick starts with a two-run double to break a scoreless tie in the first inning of the first game, before knocking in two with a triple in the first inning of the second game of the set.
Burgess is tied with junior Angi Sakamoto for the team lead in home runs with four, while Sakamoto's 17 RBI's have set the Tech pace after the 5-5 outfielder doubled in a run in the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader with Chattanooga.
Inside the circle, freshman Danielle Liberatore (5-7) is coming off a pair of solid outings. On Mar. 30 in TTU's last conference win over Belmont, the 5-10 southpaw earned the win with a complete-game effort, allowing three runs while scattering seven hits. Despite suffering the loss on Wednesday, Liberatore once again went the distance, only surrendering two earned runs while holding a good Chattanooga club to just five hits.
Liberatore leads the Golden Eagles in wins with five and strikeouts with 59 and has also posted a 2-1 record in conference play.
Murray State (16-17, 5-4) welcomes in Tech with a winning conference record, despite going 1-2 in its series with Eastern Illinois in the Racers last OVC set on Mar. 29-30.
Murray has done it with the bats this year, ranking third in the conference with a team batting average of .274 and fourth in slugging percentage at .396. Sophomore Shelbey Miller leads squad with a .309 batting average, while junior Alexa Becker's six long balls and 18 runs batted in sit atop the Racers. Freshman Maggie Glass and junior Casey Castile have both hit four home runs as well.
On the rubber, freshman Mason Robinson (6-6) has posted a team-low 2.83 earned-run average, with junior CheyAnne Gaskey (7-9) leading the Racers with 83 punch outs in 95 1/3 innings.
Tech has dropped seven of the previous 11 meetings in its all-time series with Murray, including in a pair of tight tilts in Cookeville last year as the Golden Eagles lost 3-2 and 2-0.
Austin Peay (16-18, 5-4) enters the Sunday twin bill after taking two-of-three at Southeast Missouri in the Governors last conference series on Mar. 29-30, using strong pitching to capture the set. Senior Lauren de Castro (11-6) earned both APSU victories in the series, tossing two complete games, combining to give up only three earned runs while striking out 20.
de Castro has also done it with the bat this year, leading the Govs in all three triple crown categories with a .400 batting average, five home runs, and 21 RBI's.
Before Austin Peay welcomes Tech into town, the Governors will have the tall task of hosting the top team in the OVC, Jacksonville State (23-9, 8-2), for a doubleheader on Saturday.
The Golden Eagles have controlled the all-time series between the two clubs with a 67-18 advantage, which includes a split last year in Cookeville back in mid-April. Behind a Kendall Hooper home run and a brilliant performance from inside the circle from Taylor Ketchum, Tech earned a 7-0 in the second game of last season's doubleheader. Ketchum, then a sophomore, pitched a complete game shutout, surrendering just three hits.
Live video for Saturday's doubleheader against Murray State is available on the OVC Digital Network. CLICK HERE to watch.