On March 13, 2020, the collegiate sports season came to a screeching halt due to concerns with the corona virus. This includes the stoppage for Tennessee State softball, just 18 games into its 52 game schedule.
Despite the shortened season, the Tigers were still able to highlight the campaign with an upset win over Tulsa at the Bulldog Kickoff Classic hosted by Mississippi State.
The Tigers finished pool play on day two of the three day tournament winless, including a 2-0 loss to the Golden Hurricanes on day one. TSU entered bracket play as the number four seed, while Tulsa was seeded first with a perfect 3-0 mark.
Tulsa went into the Saturday afternoon contest at 7-0 and receiving votes in both national polls. The hot start comes on the heels of an appearance in the finals of the Oklahoma State Regional in the 2019 NCAA tournament.
The Tigers would begin the game at 1-6, but a strong pitching performance, timely hitting and a 2020 NCAA single game defensive record setting performance provided a path to Sunday’s championship game.
TSU struck first as Patton Akers and Sarah Snell led off with back-to-back singles. Bri Vire reached on an error and was credited with a sacrifice bunt as Akers and Snell advanced 60 feet. Beckey Melton followed with a fielder’s choice to second, which allowed Akers to score the first run of the game.
The Big Blue would continue to place runners on base in five of the next six innings, led by Lauren Farias who notched three hits, including a leadoff double in the seventh. The Tigers were unable to push another run across during this time, stranding seven runners.
In the circle, Raven Loveless worked out of trouble in each of the first three innings. The Golden Hurricanes put runners in scoring position each inning before Loveless closed the door. The sophomore settled in and needed just four pitches to retire the side in the fourth and five in the fifth.
Tulsa evened the score in the sixth on a sacrifice fly, but left the go ahead run on third. The Golden Hurricanes looked to close out the game in the seventh as they opened with a leadoff triple. Loveless enticed a ground out before issuing a walk, which was vital for the Tigers. Tulsa looked as if they were going to win the game as a fly ball was hit to Vire in right field. The junior came up firing to Katie Schneider to double off the runner at first for a force out, erasing the would-be game winning run from third.
Neither team could produce a run over the next two innings before entering the international tiebreaker in the 10th. With Lauren Farias on third, Tulsa intentionally walked Vire to face Melton. The senior delivered a two out single through the right side of the infield to plate Farias, giving TSU a 2-1 lead.
In the bottom half of the inning with one out and two runners in scoring position, the Tigers spoiled a squeeze attempt by Tulsa for the second out and leaving the batter with two strikes. On the next pitch, Loveless forced a ground ball, which she handled herself to end the game stranding a runner on third. The Tiger win handed Tulsa their first loss of the season.
Loveless tossed all 10 frames for the win and tied for seventh in the NCAA in 2020 for most innings pitched. The defense shined, as Schneider recorded an NCAA season high of 22 putouts, while Farias notched eight assists in the contest, which was the most in Division-I at the time. The assist total for Farias tied for fifth in the nation this season.