By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
KENNESAW, Ga. -- Late inning dramatics didn't swing Tennessee Tech's way Saturday afternoon, as the Golden Eagle softball team fell in a pair of close ones, 5-3 and 4-3, to Kennesaw State in TTU's first non-tournament action of the season.
The Golden Eagles (0-7) found themselves squared away heading into the fifth inning of each game of the doubleheader, but the tide turned in each affair with the Owls (4-2) combining for six runs in the two frames.
Knotted up at 1-1 in the fifth of game one, the Owls struck for four runs after their first five batters reached base in the inning. After back-to-back singles by freshman Taylor Denton and senior Carly Van Auken to start things off, sophomore Kara Chambers drove in the first run of the frame with a base hit up the middle to plate Denton.
An infield single by junior Natalie Rhodes loaded the bases, before a Golden Eagle error allowed a second run to score, which was followed by a strikeout, a bases loaded walk to senior Angie Dascoli to plate a third run, and an RBI groundout off the bat of senior Bianca Durant to cap off KSU's fifth inning scoring.
Tech made some noise in the top of the seventh inning behind a two-run home run by sophomore Madison Taylor to cut the deficit to 5-3, but that's all the Golden Eagles could muster after freshman Gabby Perez grounded out to end the game, representing the tying run.
The Taylor round tripper was the second of the game for TTU, after senior Chelsea Burgess kicked off the scoring with a solo home run in the top of the second inning.
Despite surrendering four runs in the bottom of the fifth (two earned) freshman starting pitcher Danielle Liberatore (0-3) impressed in tossing her second complete game of the season. The 5-10 southpaw from Peotone, Ill. allowed five runs, (three earned), while scattering seven hits, walking just one and striking out five Owls.
Across the diamond, Kennesaw State's Amanda Henderson (3-1) kept the Tech offense quiet in giving up just one run on one hit over six innings of work, while striking out eight to pick up the win.
Game two of the double dip saw the two teams each come back from one-run deficits over the first four innings, before KSU broke a 2-2 tie with another big fifth inning.
Down 1-0 in the top of the third, Tech knotted things up on a Kendall Hooper RBI single, scoring Gabby Perez who led off the inning with a single through the right side.
An inning later with the score deadlocked at 1-1, the Golden Eagles took their first lead of the contest thanks to a Hannah Eldridge run-scoring double to bring around Chelsea Burgess with the second Tech run.
The Owls knotted the game on a Golden Eagle error in the bottom of the fourth, and then took a two-run lead with a pair of RBI singles in the fifth. Kennesaw State's Natalie Rhodes did the honors first with a liner to left to plate sophomore Kara Chambers, who reached on an error to begin the inning, and then sophomore Courtney Sutter brought Rhodes around with a single to center, giving KSU a 4-2 advantage.
Another Hannah Eldridge RBI trimmed the Kennesaw State lead in half in the top of the sixth, as the Fayetteville, Tenn. singled to score sophomore Cortney Fry, who reached on a hit-by-pitch with one out in the frame. The knock moved Madison Taylor to third, who singled after Fry's HBP, giving Tech runners on the corners with one down, but Kennesaw State reliever Amanda Henderson, who had started and won the first game, wiggled out of the tough jam without allowing a run.
Eldridge and Taylor each went 2-for-3 in the game, while Kendall Hooper picked up two hits in four trips to the dish.
TTU showed signs of a potential comeback in the top half of the seventh inning after Kendall Hooper led off with a base hit and sophomore Olivia Bennett bunted her over to second, but consecutive Henderson punch outs halted the comeback bid short.
Henderson earned the win in relief to go a perfect 2-0 on the day, going 3.2 innings of work, allowing one run on four hits, striking out six Golden Eagles.
Tech sophomore Hannah Weaver (0-2) suffered the loss after entering the game with none down in the fourth inning. The 5-5 righty from Corona, Calif. went three innings, surrendering two runs (one earned) on three hits with one walk and one strikeout. Junior Erica Tuck in her first start of the season tossed three innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits.
The Golden Eagles will close out their three-game set with Kennesaw State Sunday with first pitch slated for 12 p.m. CT.