May 8, 2009

Three RBI from Gates lifts Tech to 5-2 upset over No. 1 JSU

Golden Eagles to meet No. 2 SEMO Friday at 3 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – Tennessee Tech stunned No. 1 seed Jacksonville State, 5-2, in the final game of the day Thursday at the 2009 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, sending the Golden Eagles (26-29) into the winner’s bracket final tomorrow against Southeast Missouri at 3 p.m.

Tech overcame an early 1-0 deficit against the Gamecocks, using a two-run double from Kaleigh Gates in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead. The Golden Eagles got back-to-back home runs from Lacie Coquerille and Gates in the top of the seventh for insurance in beating JSU (38-12) for the first time this season.

Starter Maddie Schmissrauter (11-10) got the win, working the first four innings and allowing just two hits and one run. Freshman Holly Thomas, who got a win earlier in the day, pitched the final 2.2 innings to earn her first save of the year.

The loss went to JSU starter Karla Pittman (15-2), the OVC Pitcher of the Year who was tagged with an “L” for only the second time this season. She yielded three unearned runs and five hits in four innings. Ashley Eliasson worked the final three innings, allowing just two hits, both home runs.

The Golden Eagles, the fifth seed in the tourney, meet No. 2 Southeast Missouri Friday, with the winner advancing to the Championship game Saturday. SEMO downed Morehead State, 1-0, earlier Thursday.

The Gamecocks manufactured a 1-0 lead with a run in the bottom of the first, after the Golden Eagles had threatened in the top of the first frame.

Coquerille singled and Gates walked, then each advanced on a wild pitch, giving Tech a couple of runners in scoring position, but Pittman got out of the jam with a strikeout and ground out.

JSU made it 1-0 as Chrissy O’Neal led off the bottom of the inning with a single, and with one out Allie Barker singled to center, and Courtney Underwood walked to load the bases. A sacrifice fly from Meredith Sellers plated O’Neal, before Schmissrauter stifled the rally.

Tech tied the contest with an unearned run in the top of the third. Jordan Leff led off with a single to left, then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Coquerille. Gates singled, putting runners on the corners, and Callie Schmidt’s fly ball behind first base was dropped, allowing Leff to race home.

The Golden Eagles got a clutch bases loaded, two-run double from Gates in the top of the fourth to take a 3-1 lead. Brooke Basten beat an infield grounder and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and a groundout, before Leff was hit by a Pittman offering and Coquerille walked to fill the sacks. Gates looked at two pitches outside the strike zone, then drove a ball deep to left the banged off the fence and scored Leff and Basten.

JSU got a leadoff runner aboard when Underwood was hit by a pitch to open the fourth, but Leff made a web gem to erase the threat. Leff snatched a sinking line drive off her shoelaces in left to retire Sellers, then got the ball quickly to the infield where Jessica Steele’s relay to first doubled off Underwood at first.

Coach Tory Acheson replaced Schmissrauter to open the fifth and senior Kristina Hortert got a strikeout to start the inning before yielding a single. That brought in Thomas, who had tossed a seven-inning shutout victory earlier in the day against UT Martin. Two ground balls later the inning was complete.

Thomas gave up a single and wild pitch in the sixth, but didn’t allow anything more as Tech carried its 3-1 lead into the seventh.

Coquerille led off with a home run to left field, her fifth of the season, to make it 4-1. Gates then followed with her fifth dinger of the year, also to left, to make it a 5-1 lead. Tech put two more runners aboard before a strikeout ended the rally.

Jacksonville had a single and a walk, then pushed a run across against Thomas on a groundout – the first run allowed all day by the freshman – to make it 5-2. A grounder to first was the final out of the contest.

Gates finished the day 3-for-3 with three RBI on the double and home run. Coquerille had two of Tech’s seven hits.

Nobody had more than one hit for JSU, which managed just five singles off Tech’s three pitchers.