By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech softball team responded to an early setback in its doubleheader with Eastern Illinois (20-9, 2-2), bouncing back to take game two of the twin bill, 10-2 in six innings, after being tripped up 5-4 in the opener.
The Golden Eagles (9-24, 1-6) came out scorching in the second game of the double dip, plating three runs in the first two innings. Leading 1-0 in the bottom of the second, consecutive two-out RBI doubles by junior Angi Sakamoto and sophomore Madison Taylor pushed Tech to the 3-0 advantage, before senior Kendall Hooper delivered the game's crushing blow in the bottom of the fourth.
With two outs and runners on first and second in the fourth, the Hermitage, Tenn. native smacked a three-run home run to left, giving the Golden Eagles a comfortable 6-0 cushion.
The lead was in good hands as freshman Danielle Liberatore (4-7) excelled from inside the circle for Tech, going the distance to pick up her fourth win of the year. The 5-10 southpaw surrendered two runs on four hits, walking just one and striking out four.
After EIU scored two in the sixth on a Brooke Owens fielder's choice and a Hannah Cole sacrifice fly, the Golden Eagles responded with four in the bottom half of the frame to close the game out. Chelsea Burgess provided the inning's biggest knock, a three-run double to extend the Tech lead to 9-2, before the Dunlap, Tenn. product scored two batters later on a game-ending Cortney Fry single to right center.
Burgess ended the second game with two doubles, one of three Golden Eagles to string together a multi-hit performance, joining Angi Sakamoto and Kendall Hooper.
Eastern Illinois senior starting pitcher Stephanie Maday (8-5) was tagged with the loss after going three and two-thirds innings, allowing six runs (five earned) on seven hits, walking three and striking out five.
Tech mirrored its quick start in the second game with a similar beginning in the opener, scoring three runs in the first two innings to take a 3-0 advantage. Kendall Hooper got things going in the first frame, lining a two-out RBI single to center to score Madison Taylor. One inning later, sophomore Cortney Fry and senior Kayla Floyd touched up home after an Angi Sakamoto single to left scored the pair.
The Panthers finally got on the board in the top of the fourth, using a Hannah Cole solo home run to trim the deficit to 3-1, but Tech got the run right back in the bottom of the inning after Kayla Floyd came home on a two-out RBI double to left center off the bat of Madison Taylor.
Floyd and Taylor would each pick up two hits in the affair, combining to score three runs as well.
Trailing 4-1 heading into the top of the sixth, Eastern Illinois mounted a comeback with four runs in the frame to take a 5-4 lead. The first six Panther hitters reached in the inning, starting things off with a Morgan Biel walk, a Jennette Isaac bunt single, and a Carly Willert fielder's choice that scored Biel to cut the TTU advantage to 4-2.
Brooke Owens was hit with a pitch to load the bases following the Willert fielder's choice, before Hannah Cole singled in Isaac to bring the Panthers within one. Up stepped senior Reynae Hutchinson, who doubled in Willert and Owens to give EIU a 5-4 lead, but the Golden Eagles limited further damage after throwing out Cole at the plate on the Hutchinson two-bagger.
Tech put a runner aboard in the sixth but was unable to score, before putting two on in the seventh in the Golden Eagles final chance at tying the game. Freshman Alyssa Richards worked a pinch hit walk with two outs in the inning, before Kendall Hooper reached on an error to bring sophomore Olivia Bennett to the plate. Eastern Illinois reliever Stephanie Maday induced Bennett on a pop up to end the contest, securing the comeback victory.
Maday pitched a hitless three innings with five punch outs to earn the win, while sophomore Hannah Weaver suffered the loss, tossing 5 1/3 innings, giving up five earned on six hits.
The Golden Eagles will hit the road next weekend, taking on Belmont in a three-game series. Tech will clash with the Bruins in a doubleheader on Saturday, Mar. 29, before closing out the set on Sunday, Mar. 30.