NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tigers came up short in both games at UT Martin on Saturday in Ohio Valley Conference play. Tennessee State fell behind after an early lead, only to fight back before falling 6-5 on a rarely often seen play in game one. In the night cap, it took 11 innings to decide the winner, but the Skyhawks walked away with a 4-3 victory.
UT Martin improves to 19-16-1, 7-3 in OVC play. With the two heartbreakers, TSU drops to 14-25, 2-9 in conference.
The Tigers outhit UTM in the opening game of the day, 10-6. Ashley Haynes led the way with a 4-for-4 performance, including a clutch RBI single in the seventh. Haynes was one of seven Tigers to record a hit off Skyhawks pitching.
TSU opened the scoring in the first as Lindsey Burgess, who reached on an error and stole second base, crossed home plate on a ground out off the bat of Jayna Hanawahine. Haynes provided the second run of the game in the second inning, as she scored on an infield single by Kiarra Freeman to make the score 2-0.
The lead was short-lived, as UTM received a 3-run home run by Taylor Manning in the bottom of the second making the score 3-2. The Skyhawks would add to their lead with a run in the fifth, increasing their lead to 4-2.
TSU came charging back in the sixth with four hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly. Kate Morris led off the inning with a double, but was thrown out at home trying to score on a single by Haynes, who took second on the throw home. Rebekka Gross drove a ball into right field for a hit and moved to second as the ball got behind the fielder. Haynes was off on the crack of the bat and never broke stride to score easily and cutting the UTM lead to one.
After a walk to Freeman and a bunt single by Tayler Shimizu, Liz Stansberry hit a fly ball deep enough into centerfield, giving Gross enough time to scamper home to tie the game at 4-4.
UTM bounced back in their half of the inning with a two-out solo home run off starting pitcher Hannah St. Clair. The freshman pitcher would face one more batter before exiting the game. St. Clair scattered five hits and a walk as she was charged with five earned runs. Shea Morris would enter and strike out the lone batter she faced in the sixth.
Hanawahine gave TSU a runner in scoring position with a one-out double down the left field line. The sophomore advanced to third on a Kate Morris ground out and setting up the clutch at bat by Haynes. After falling behind 0-2, the Knoxville native delivered her fourth hit of the game into left field to plate Hanawahine and tie the game at 5-5.
The hard fought comeback went for not, as UTM put together a two-out rally. One out away from heading to extra innings, Shea Morris plunked Kayla Wade with a pitch giving UTM a base runner in the form of their leading base stealer. Wade wasted no time swiping second base and was able to move to third as the throw from Gross hit the runner and bounced into left center.
The Tigers intentionally walked the three-hole hitter Kenzi Tate to put runners on the corners. But before the Tigers could face another batter, Gross’ return throw to Morris sailed over the pitchers head allowing Wade to race home to score the game-ending run.
TSU would run into another heartbreaker in game two proved to be a pitcher’s duel that would need four extra innings to play. Courtney Gearlds charged home on a wild pitch in the third inning for an early 1-0 lead. Gearlds had reached on her first hit of the day and moved to second on a Shimizu walk and to third on a Stansberry sacrifice bunt.
The Tigers tried to add another run in the inning, but Shimizu was caught coming home on a failed squeeze attempt.
Shea Morris would not surrender a hit until the fourth inning and gave up her first run in the fifth. With two outs and runners on the corners, UTM attempted a double steal. The runner on first stopped half way to second trying to draw a throw. Gross would make the throw to Burgess covering second, which gave the Skyhawks runner on third a chance to score to tie the game at 1-1.
The score would stand until the 10th inning as the Tigers pushed a run across in the first inning of the international tiebreaker. Hanawahine, the final out of the ninth inning, was placed on second and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Kate Morris. Haynes followed with a ground ball to third, catching Hanawahine off base. The sophomore would get into a run down and scored on an errant throw. UT Martin evened the score with a run in the bottom of the inning to force the 11th.
Gross was placed on second and advanced to third on a Gearlds ground out. Shimizu would pick up the RBI as she ripped a single up the middle to plate Gross. Stansberry followed with a line drive single into center moving Shimizu to second, but the two were stranded on base.
With one out and Wade on third, the Skyhawks attempted a squeeze bunt. Shea Morris fielded and threw the ball home ahead of the runner to Gross. The Tigers thought they had eliminated the threat, but the home plate umpire ruled Wade had managed to sneak in to home through freshman catcher.
The Skyhawks would collect just their sixth hit of the game off Shea Morris with two outs, which allowed Wilson to reach home just before the relay throw home.
Morris suffered the loss in both games and drops to 8-10. The junior gave up six hits in 11.2 innings on the day, along with five runs, two earned, four walks and five strikeouts.
Brooke Kennedy pitched 2.1 innings on the day and earned the wins in both games, improving to 3-1. Kennedy replaced Casey Vincent who tossed 10.1 innings surrendering four hits and four walks, while striking out 14.
The Tigers conclude the road trip with a 12:00pm double header on Sunday versus Southeast Missouri in Cape Girardeau. The games can be heard on tsutigers.com.