Danielle Liberatore shines in the circle as Tech earns split at Austin Peay
By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Behind a tremendous outing by freshman pitcher Danielle Liberatore (6-9), the Tennessee Tech softball team forced a split in its Sunday doubleheader at Austin Peay. The 5-10 lefty hurler out of Peotone, Ill. tossed a complete game shutout with 10 strikeouts to propel the Golden Eagles (12-30, 4-10) to a 7-0 win in the opener, before the Governors (17-21, 6-7) seized a 6-3 victory in the second game.
Tech gave Liberatore a nice cushion in the opening tilt, scoring four in the first and adding two more in the second to jump out to the early 6-0 lead. With two outs and the bases empty in the top of the first, freshman Alyssa Richards was hit with a pitch, before coming around to score one batter later on a Kendall Hooper single and an APSU throwing error to push the Golden Eagles to a 1-0 edge.
Senior Chelsea Burgess followed Hooper's single with a hit-by-pitch, leading to a Cortney Fry two-run double to give TTU a 3-0 advantage. Fry came around to score one batter later on a second Govs' error on a ball hit by junior Hannah Eldridge.
Junior Angi Sakamoto was responsible for knocking in Tech's pair of runs in the second inning, as the 5-5 lefty swinging outfielder drilled a two-run home run to right field to extend the lead to 6-0. Sakamoto's round tripper broke the tie with Chelsea Burgess for the team lead with five long balls, extending her team-leading RBI mark to 23 as well.
The Golden Eagles added a run in the top of the sixth thanks to a solo home run by Alyssa Richards, the freshman's third of the year.
Danielle Liberatore was still the story of the game, allowing just four hits in earning her team-leading sixth win of the season, navigating through the contest with little trouble. In fact, Liberatore enjoyed a stretch of retiring 11 straight batters from the first inning to the fifth.
Austin Peay senior Lauren de Castro (11-8) was tagged with the loss, giving up seven runs (six earned) on eight hits in a complete game effort.
Tech fell into trouble early in the second game as the Governors plated one in the first and five more in the second to take a 6-1 lead after two innings. The Govs used a de Castro RBI single in the first for their lone run in the frame, before attacking TTU with a two-run Chandler Groves single, a Mel Pavel run-scoring knock, and a de Castro two-run double to tack on the five more in the second.
The Golden Eagles chipped away with a run in the third on an Alyssa Richards RBI single up the middle to cut the deficit to 6-2, before adding one more in the top of the fourth after Hannah Eldridge dented home on a wild pitch.
Ultimately the comeback bid fell short behind a strong showing from inside the circle by senior Taylor Mills (1-0). The Ft. Gibson, Okla. native went the distance, scattering nine hits and allowing three earned to pick up her first win of the season.
TTU mounted a rally in the sixth inning after putting two on with two out on consecutive singles by Hannah Eldridge and sophomore Samantha Cook, but Mills bounced back to retire red-shirt sophomore Mekenzie Weems on a bouncer to second to end the threat.
Golden Eagle starting pitcher Hannah Weaver (4-16) twirled a complete game, giving up six runs, but only one earned in suffering the loss.
Angi Sakamoto followed up her strong game one performance with a three-hit game two, while Alyssa Richards and Hannah Eldridge each collected multi-hit showings as well with two knocks each.
Tech will take a break in their conference slate for the last time this season, traveling to the defending national runner up in the University of Tennessee on Tuesday, Apr. 8 for the Golden Eagles final non-conference battle of the season. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. CT.