By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – A tough beginning to the 2014 Ohio Valley Conference slate for the Tennessee Tech softball team, as the Golden Eagles (8-20, 0-2) were downed in both games of a doubleheader to Jacksonville State, 9-0 and 17-4.
In both affairs Tech fell into early holes that it was unable to climb out of, giving up five runs in the first inning of both contests.
The Gamecocks (16-5, 2-0) put on a power display in the first inning of the opener, with sophomore Cadi Oliver hitting a grand slam, which was followed by a solo shot from senior Amanda Maldonado two batters later to give JSU a 5-0 lead.
Maldonado would be heard from later in the tilt as the 5-10 first basemen from Tucson, Ariz. smacked a three-run round tripper in the bottom of the fifth to turn a 6-0 Jacksonville State lead into a 9-0 final.
The Golden Eagles managed two hits in the game, a single by senior Kendall Hooper in the second inning, and a knock through the left side from sophomore Cortney Fry in the third, as JSU's Tiffany Harbin (5-3) impressed in pitching a complete game shutout to notch the win.
Freshman Danielle Liberatore (3-7) was saddled with the loss in recording just two outs in the first inning of her start, surrendering five earned on four hits. Junior Taylor Ketchum tossed the remainder of the affair, allowing four runs on six hits.
The Gamecocks five-run first inning in the second game of the double dip was aided behind two Golden Eagle errors, with four of the five runs coming of the unearned variety. JSU's biggest hit of the frame came off the bat of junior Melanie Steer as the Scarborough, Ontario native roped a two-out, two-run single down the right field line to push Jacksonville State to a 5-0 advantage.
Tech did fight back after JSU plated two more in the second to go up 7-0, putting up a four-spot in the top half of the third to jump right back in the thick of things, only down three.
After a leadoff single by Cortney Fry and sacrifice bunt from freshman Gabby Perez put Fry on second, the Golden Eagles loaded the bases on an infield knock from senior Kayla Floyd, and a hit-by-pitch from junior Hannah Eldridge. TTU cashed in on its run-scoring opportunity behind a Jax State error on a ball hit by sophomore Madison Taylor to plate two, which was followed up by a two-run single from red-shirt sophomore Mekenize Weems to cut the deficit to 7-4.
The Gamecocks came right back in the bottom of the third, scoring a run on a two-out RBI single from senior Kalee Tabor, before JSU essentially put the game on ice with a nine-run fourth inning. Jacksonville State tallied nine hits in the nine-run frame, including five extra-base hits, scoring four of its runs with two down.
JSU's Sara Borders and Melanie Steer each had four RBI's in the tilt, with Borders going a perfect 3-for-3 and Steer a perfect 2-for-2. Freshman Taylor Sloan scored four times for the Gamecocks, going 3-for-3 as well.
Freshman Taylor West (2-0) picked up the win with two and two-thirds innings of scoreless relief, while Tech starter Hannah Weaver (3-9) suffered the loss in surrendering six runs in three innings.
TTU will look to bounce back on Sunday, closing out the three-game set with the Gamecocks at 1 p.m. CT.