Seniors, final inning rally lift Tech past EIU Panthers, 3-1

Holly Thomas (right) gets a hug from Brooke Basten as Melody Christian looks on (photo courtesy of Trevor Ruszkowski, UT Martin)
Holly Thomas (right) gets a hug from Brooke Basten as Melody Christian looks on (photo courtesy of Trevor Ruszkowski, UT Martin)

MARTIN, Tenn. -- It was a day neither will forget. A total of 202 pitches for one and three clutch runs batted in for another. Seniors Holly Thomas and Brooke Basten put the Tennessee Tech softball team on their shoulders and lifted it to two of the biggest victories of their Golden Eagle careers.

The talented pair helped No. 6 seed Tech beat No. 3 seed Jacksonville State early in the day, 2-1, then capped Thursday's action at the 2012 Ohio Valley Conference Softball Championship with a 3-1 win over No. 2 seed Eastern Illinois. Tech advances to the winner's bracket final Friday at 3 p.m. as the Golden Eagles seek their sixth invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

For your typical pitcher, striking out six batters and giving up nine hits and two runs in one day isn't something that stands out. Holly Thomas, however, is not your typical pitcher. The senior from Ooltewah, Tenn., pitched a greuling 14 innings en route to a pair of complete-game victories all in the span of six hours and 48 minutes.

Thomas fired pitch after pitch, retiring batter after batter with the Tech defense backing her all the way. She had streaks in which she retired nine, seven and six consecutive batters and finished the day allowing just one hit over the final 16 batters she faced.

Basten, from Green Bay, Wis., hit an RBI single that tied Tech with Jacksonville State that would have been the highlight of her day -- that is, until game two.

With the Golden Eagles trailing by one with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the seventh inning, Basten hit a rope up the middle that caused all of the purple-wearing fans to jump out of their seats. A two-run single for the lead. It was the fourth consecutive single by Tech, following hits by Cassie Garrett, Angi Sakamoto and Melody Christian. And it was the loudest.

A groundout followed, allowing Christian to score and giving Tech a 3-1 lead.

All eyes focused on the right arm of Thomas as she stepped into the circle with the lead. Two quick groundouts intensified the moment. Then a walk, her only free pass of the game. Then, a 2-0 count to the tying run at the plate. Then, a ground ball that seemed to take decades to reach Samantha Everett at shortstop. And with one quick throw to first, it was over. The sixth-seeded squad from Cookeville had knocked off both the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in one day.

Basten, Everett and Thomas each earned their degrees last Saturday. This Saturday, they will be competing for a championship.

Tech will face UT Martin at 3 p.m. Friday for a chance to advance to the championship game.
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