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April 7, 2014

Golden Eagles flock to Knoxville for final non-conference game of 2014

By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech softball team prepares for its final non-conference tilt of the season, traveling to No. 2 University of Tennessee for a Tuesday evening showdown with the defending College World Series runner up at 5 p.m. CT.

The Golden Eagles (12-30) enter the matchup having split the last four in back-to-back weekend conference doubleheaders with Murray State and Austin Peay. On Saturday at Murray, Tech's bats came alive to propel TTU to a 9-3 victory in the finale of the twin bill, powered by senior Kendall Hooper, junior Angi Sakamoto, and sophomore Cortney Fry.

Hooper smacked a two-run home run in the top of the third as part of a four-run frame for the Golden Eagles, the Hermitage, Tenn. native's third of the season, all of which have come in conference play. Sakamoto knocked in three runs in the contest, while Fry went 3-for-4 to play a pivotal role in the win.

On the rubber, sophomore Hannah Weaver (4-16) earned the victory behind a complete game effort, one of two lights out performances in the weekend. Freshman Danielle Liberatore (6-9) was brilliant on Sunday in an opening game win at Austin Peay, tossing a complete-game shutout, surrendering only four hits and striking out 10 Governors.

Liberatore leads TTU in all three pitching triple crown categories with six wins, a 3.95 ERA, and 72 strikeouts.

Offensively, no one has swung the bat better of late than Angi Sakamoto. The Waipahu, Hawaii native is currently riding an 11-game hitting streak to bump her average to a team-leading .291. Sakamoto is coming off a week to remember after going 9-for-20 for a .450 average, also knocking in seven and hitting one home run to break a tie with senior Chelsea Burgess for the team lead with five long balls. Sakamoto also sits atop the club with 23 RBI's.

No. 2 Tennessee (32-5) enters the tilt having lost two-out-of-three this past weekend at LSU, but did capture the finale, 9-0 in six innings behind a strong showing from inside the circle by senior Ellen Renfroe (22-2). The 6-0 righty surrendered just three hits in a complete game shutout for her 22nd win of the season.

In 149 2/3 innings this season, Renfroe has posted a 1.61 ERA for the Volunteers, striking out a team high 167 batters as well.

UT possesses a pair of players hitting above .395 in senior Madison Shipman (.416) and freshman Annie Aldrete (.396). Both Shipman and Aldrete went yard in Sunday's 9-0 win over LSU, Shipman's team-leading ninth of the season, and Aldrete's eighth to put her in a tie with senior Melissa Davin for second on the club.

The Volunteers are coming off a second place finish in last year's College World Series, making it all the way to the final before losing 5-3 in 12 innings and 4-0 to Oklahoma to fall just short in their bid at a national championship. Tennessee has won all 17 previous meetings with Tech.

Live video is available for Tuesday's game by CLICKING HERE.