By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
MURRAY, Ky. – The Tennessee Tech softball team rebounded after a tough loss, 5-4, in the opening tilt of Saturday's doubleheader with Murray State (17-18, 6-5), coming back to capture the second game. The Golden Eagles (11-29, 3-9) used a trio of big innings to get the job done in the double dip finale, scoring four in the third, two in the fifth, and three more in the sixth to take the game, 9-3.
Scoreless through two, Tech jumped on the board with a four spot in the top of the third inning. Freshman Gabby Perez started the four-run rally with a leadoff bunt single, before coming around to score one batter later on a Kayla Floyd bunt that saw two Racer errors allow Perez to touch up home and Floyd move all the way to third.
Junior Angi Sakamoto knocked Floyd in with a sacrifice fly to left to give the Golden Eagles a 2-0 advantage, before senior Kendall Hooper capped off the third inning scoring with a two-run home run to left field, the Hermitage, Tenn. native's third round tripper of the season, all coming in conference play.
Hooper ended the game going 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored, and two RBI's, ending the twin bill with two extra-base hits after doubling to lead off the fourth inning of game one. Sakamoto combined for four RBI's in the two games, adding to her team lead of 21 on the season.
Murray State jumped back into the affair with a three-run bottom of the fourth, scoring on a Taylor Odom RBI two-bagger, a double steal that saw Odom swipe home, and an Erica Howard RBI single that brought around freshman Cayla Levins with the third Racer run to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Only up a run heading into the top of the fifth, Tech gave themselves some breathing room with a two-run frame, thanks to a wild pitch that scored sophomore Madison Taylor and an RBI groundout off the bat of Chelsea Burgess that plated Hooper to give the Golden Eagles a 6-3 edge.
TTU essentially put the game on ice behind a three-run sixth inning. Sophomore Cortney Fry kicked off the frame with an infield single, before being erased on a Gabby Perez fielder's choice one batter later. With one out and one on, Kayla Floyd singled through the right side to push Perez to third, while Floyd moved all the way to second on the throw.
Up stepped Sakamoto, who drove in both Perez and Floyd with a two-run single up the middle, pushing Tech to an 8-3 lead. After a Madison Taylor single and a double steal put runners on second and third with still only one down, freshman Alyssa Richards scored Sakamoto on a sacrifice fly to center to wrap up the scoring at 9-3.
Aside from a shaky fourth inning, sophomore Hannah Weaver (4-15) was lights out for the Golden Eagles, going the distance for her fourth win of the year. The Corona, Calif. native scattered seven hits, walked four, and struck out two.
Murray junior CheyAnne Gaskey (7-10) suffered the loss after going 4 1/3 innings, giving up five runs (four earned) on five hits.
Racer sophomore Shelbey Miller played a key role in giving Murray State an early 2-0 early as the 5-4 second baseman from Goreville, Ill. led off the bottom of the first with a home run, before doubling in a run in the second.
Tech showed resiliency though, charging back with three runs in the fourth to take a 3-2 lead. Kendall Hooper and Chelsea Burgess began the frame with consecutive doubles, cutting the deficit in half on Burgess' two-bagger. The pair of doubles chased Murray starting pitcher Mason Robinson (6-6), with the Racers handing the ball over to sophomore J.J. Francis (4-2).
The 5-10 righty from Louisville, Ky. retired Alyssa Richards on a roller to second that advanced Burgess to third, leading to a Cortney Fry game-tying RBI bunt single to pull Tech even at 2-2. Fry advanced to second on a pass ball, moved to third on a Gabby Perez groundout, and then scored on Racer error to give the Golden Eagles a 3-2 advantage.
Up 3-2 heading into the bottom of the fourth, Tech relinquished the lead after Cayla Levins smacked an RBI single to left field, plating Taylor Odom who began the inning with a leadoff triple. An inning later, Murray took the lead for good as Odom drilled a two-run home run to right center to push the Racers ahead 5-3.
The Golden Eagles chopped the deficit in a half with an Angi Sakamoto RBI single up the middle to score red-shirt junior Christian Gibbs in the top of the sixth, but the comeback bid was halted after Tech put runners on first and second with two down, and reliever CheyAnne Gaskey came on to retire junior Hannah Eldridge to end the sixth.
The Golden Eagles put two more on in the seventh on a pair of walks to Chelsea Burgess and Corntey Fry, but Gaskey retired Gabby Perez on a bouncer to third to end the game for her second save of the season.
J.J. Francis earned the win in relief, throwing 2 2/3 innings, surrendering two runs (one earned) while allowing four hits. Tech freshman Danielle Liberatore was tagged with the loss, pitching 5 2/3 innings and allowing five earned on six hits.
TTU managed seven hits, four of them doubles with Madison Taylor, Kendall Hooper, Chelsea Burgess, and Alyssa Richards picking up two-baggers. Angi Sakamoto was the only Golden Eagle to collect at least two hits in the game, going 2-for-3 with a walk.
Tech will close out its weekend stretch of games on Sunday, traveling to Austin Peay for a doubleheader beginning at 12 p.m. CT.