NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Kate Morris drove a ball into the left centerfield gap to drive home Jayna Hanawahine late Friday night to give Tennessee State a pair of wins to start the 2014 Tiger Invitational. The late heroics capped off a 5-4 win over North Carolina A&T, while Hannah St. Clair teamed up with Shea Morris to record a shutout win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 6-0, earlier in the day.
TSU improved to 9-15, while UAPB moved to 2-13 and the Bulldogs dropped to 4-8. UAPB opened the Invitational with a 3-2 win over Saint Louis. The Billikens fell 7-4, in game three, to N.C. A&T. SLU is now 8-5.
St. Clair (1-3) earned the first win of her career as she tossed five innings of scoreless ball. The freshman scattered four hits and a walk. Shea Morris came in with the Tigers holding a 2-0 lead and pitched two scoreless innings, striking out three and earning her second save of the season. Morris attacked the Golden Lions from the start as she threw 29 strikes in 34 pitches.
TSU received all the runs they needed in the second inning with a two out rally. The Tigers used three consecutive hits from Kiarra Freeman, Tayler Shimizu and Liz Stansberry to forge ahead 1-0. Stansberry’s single allowed Freeman to touch home plate for the early lead.
The Tigers picked up an insurance run in the fourth off a single, a walk and two sacrifices. Rebekka Gross opened the inning with a ball up the middle and moved to second on a Freeman walk. Shimizu sacrificed the two runners up 60-feet, setting up a sacrifice fly from Lindsey Burgess for a 2-0 advantage.
A four run sixth gave the Tigers a comfortable lead heading into the final frame. Ashley Haynes returned to action for her first plate appearance after being injured on Feb. 15. Haynes came through with a pinch hit single to score Shea Morris extending the lead to 3-0. With bases loaded, Burgess picked up another RBI with her second sacrifice fly of the game, giving TSU a 4-0 lead.
Courtney Gearlds added to the lead with an RBI double down the right field line. The extra base hit chased home Shimizu for a five-run lead. Stansberry closed out the scoring on a wild pitch.
Game two saw another strong pitching performance from the Tiger staff. Olivia Gamache earned a career high nine strikeouts in six innings of work. With the punch outs, the Exeter, R.I., native is now fifth all-time in strikeouts at TSU. The senior issued three hits and was touched for four runs, three earned. An unearned run chased Gamache from the game with no chance of a win.
Morris entered and was even more efficient than the first game. The junior pitcher threw 11 pitches, 10 for strikes, as she fanned all three batters she faced. The inning of work and the clutch hit in the bottom of the seventh inning improves Morris’ record to 6-6.
Lindsey Burgess and Kate Morris took charge in the night cap to propel the Tigers to the 5-4 victory. Burgess finished 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI, as Morris finished 2-for-4 with two runs driven in, including the game ending run.
The first of Burgess’ three hits opened the bottom of the first. The sophomore made her way to third on a wild pitch and a passed ball. Freeman singled to center on the next pitch to plate Burgess.
In the third, Burgess once again led off with a hit. Freeman converted on a sacrifice bunt to move her classmate 60-feet. Two batters later, Morris delivered with a drive through the left side of the infield to bring home Burgess for a 2-0 lead.
With the score 2-2 in the sixth, Burgess used her final hit of the day to plate Shimizu, who reached on a fielder’s choice after a Gross single. Stansberry, who singled with two outs, went from first-to-third on the Burgess single and hustled home on an errant throw. The freshman got underneath the tag for a two-run lead, 4-2.
The two runs off Gamache in the top of the seventh set up the exciting finish at Tiger Field. Hanawahine led off the inning with a single just out of the reach of Tranea Jones at third base. Morris stepped to the plate and wasted no time as she drove a ball to the fence in left center. Hanawahine raced around the bases as head coach Jeff Dabney waved her home to give TSU the 5-4 win.
Day two of the Tiger Invitational will begin at 10:00am with the Tigers’ first game at 12:15pm versus Saint Louis. Bracket play will begin at 2:30pm with North Carolina A&T and UAPB; No. 1 seed Tennessee State will close out day two at 4:45 versus the No. 4 seed, Saint Louis. All games can be seen on OVCDigitalNetwork.com.