By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Fresh off its first victory of the season, the Tennessee Tech softball team journeys to Chattanooga for the 2014 Frost Classic hosted by UTC. The five-game, three-day affair will see the Golden Eagles (1-7) take their shot against Toledo (10 a.m.) and Ohio (12:30 p.m.) on Friday, Campbell (10 a.m.) and Northwestern State (3 p.m.) on Saturday, and Radford (12:30 p.m.) on Sunday.
After falling in its first seven contests of the year, Tech used an eight-run third inning to take out Kennesaw State, 9-3, this past Sunday. The Golden Eagle offense exploded for nine-straight hits in the third inning onslaught, with the big blow coming off the bat of senior Chelsea Burgess. Already leading 3-0, the Dunlap, Tenn. native smoked a three-run home run, her second in as many days, to put TTU comfortably ahead 6-0.
When it was all said and done, the Golden Eagles led 9-0 after the offensive barrage, an advantage that was in good hands for freshman pitcher Danielle Liberatore (1-3). The 5-10 southpaw from Peotone, Ill. earned her first collegiate win by tossing six innings and allowing three runs on ten hits, walking two, and striking out four.
Offensively, Tech enters the tournament with seven home runs in eight games, led by a trio of Golden Eagles who each have a pair in Burgess, junior Angi Sakamoto, and sophomore Olivia Bennett. Fellow sophomore Madison Taylor is responsible for the other TTU round tripper.
Bennett is one of two Golden Eagles hitting at least .300, sitting right at .300, while senior Kendall Hooper is tops on Tech with a .320 mark behind a team-high eight hits. Bennett also leads the Golden Eagles with an impressive .440 on-base percentage, giving Tech a spark in the No. 2 spot in head coach Bonnie Bynum's lineup.
Taking a look at TTU's competition for the weekend, Toledo comes into the Frost Classic with a 1-4 record after a tough go of it in the Easton Desert Classic hosted by UNLV. The Rockets lone victory came thanks to a 3-1 nod over Utah Valley, led by a brilliant pitching performance by freshman Emily Anderson (1-1). The Goshen, Ohio native went the distance, allowing one unearned run on only two hits, striking out nine to pick up her first victory of the year.
Offensively, senior Lani Ernst is off to a hot start, hitting .500 (6-12) over the early going with a team-leading two home runs and five RBI's. The Golden Eagles hold a 3-2 edge in the all-time series with Toledo.
Ohio enters the tourney undefeated at a perfect 8-0, taking all four games in both the Carolina Classic hosted by South Carolina, and the Osprey Invitational hosted by North Florida. Pitching has been the story for the Bobcats with Ohio holding its opponents to four runs or less in six of its eight games this season.
In the Bobcats last tilt against North Florida, sophomore Savannah Jo Dorsey tossed her first career-no hitter as part of a 1-0 victory. Tech and Ohio have split the all-time series, 1-1.
Saturday's matchup with Campbell features a Fighting Camels team that is 5-4 on the young season, winning their last three games by a 17-5 combined margin. Freshman Milly Martinet has carried Campbell offensively, leading the squad with a .409 batting average, two home runs, and ten runs batted in. The Golden Eagles have dropped three out of four in the all-time series with the Fighting Camels.
Northwestern State is the only team that Tech will play this weekend that secured a spot in last year's NCAA Tournament, finishing the 2013 campaign with a 40-15 overall record and a Southland Conference Tournament championship. This year the Lady Demons are off to a 4-5 opening, but have won three of their last four.
Northwestern State junior Cassandra Barefield has led the charge offensively, hitting a team leading .409 with two home runs and seven RBI's. Freshman Kellye Kincannon has produced similar power numbers with two round trippers and a Lady Demon high ten RBI's.
Inside the circle, freshman Shelby Shells has thrown the ball well in the early stages of the 2014 campaign, compiling a 2-0 record with a 1.65 ERA. In 17 innings this year, the Pflugerville, Texas native has fanned 19 batters and have held opponents to just a .203 batting average against. Tech has played the Demons three times in its history, falling in two of those contests.
Weather has played a significant role in Radford's season as the Highlanders have only been able to play one game so far, a 6-5 win over Charlotte on Wednesday. Radford was able to erase a three-run deficit to pick up the victory, thanks in large part to the play of freshman Julie Gardner and sophomore Haley Tabora. Gardner went 2-for-3 with a home run, while Tabora drove in three clutch runs. The Golden Eagles and Highlanders have met just once in their history, resulting in a Tech victory back in 1999.
Video for select TTU games is available. CLICK HERE TO WATCH