By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The wait is over. The Tennessee Tech softball team returns to Cookeville for its much anticipated home opener on Wednesday as the Golden Eagles will square off with Holy Cross in a doubleheader beginning at 3 p.m. CT.
Tech (5-11) will be looking to bounce back after a tough weekend at East Carolina where the Golden Eagles were swept in a three-game series, dropping a pair on Saturday, 7-1 and 4-3 in eight innings, before falling 4-0 on Sunday.
Despite the sweep, TTU had its bright spots throughout the set, most notably sophomore pitcher Hannah Weaver (2-4). The 5-foot-5 righty out of Corona, Calif. appeared in all three games of the series, surrendering only three earned runs in 11 innings for a 1.91 ERA. With the impressive weekend showing, Weaver is now the team leader in ERA at 3.90.
Freshman pitcher Danielle Liberatore (3-4) still leads Tech in wins with three and strikeouts with 37. The 5-foot-10 southpaw tossed only 2 1/3 innings at East Carolina, but prior to that, the Peotone, Ill. native had a weekend to remember in the Frost Classic, Feb. 21-23.
Liberatore allowed just five earned runs in 21 1/3 innings throughout that Chattanooga tournament for a minuscule 1.64 ERA, positing a perfect 2-0 record in three appearances, and striking out 21 batters.
Offensively, sophomore Madison Taylor has moved atop the Golden Eagle batting ranks, currently leading the club with a .292 batting average, and is also tops with seven extra-base hits, nine RBI, and a .563 slugging percentage. The 5-foot-2 lefty swinging outfielder had the best offensive performance of the weekend against ECU, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, one run scored, and one RBI in Saturday's 4-3 extra inning defeat.
Taylor's hot surge has moved her into the No. 2 spot in head coach Bonnie Bynum's lineup, right behind leadoff hitter Kendall Hooper, who is second on the team with a .283 batting average. Senior Chelsea Burgess leads Tech with three home runs and 10 runs scored.
Holy Cross is still looking to get its season underway after weather has wreaked havoc on the Crusader schedule. Holy Cross is the only team in the Patriot League yet to play a game and its weeklong trip in Tennessee has already been shortened after Monday's doubleheader with Austin Peay was postponed due to snow, sleet and freezing rain in the Clarksville area over the past 24 hours.
The Crusaders are scheduled to play a double dip on Tuesday at Tennessee State, weather permitting, and after the twinbill with Tech, Holy Cross will close out its trek to the Volunteer State with the Tennessee Tournament hosted by UT, March 7-8.
Holy Cross is coming off a 13-31 season in 2013, going 7-13 in the Patriot League. The Crusaders return 18 players from last year's team, highlighted by five conference all-preseason selections in sophomores Collen Ahern, Emily Jarvis, Gennifer Durham, and Hailey Mullen along with senior Julia Barrett.
Jarvis led last season's club with 45 hits, 32 runs, and 18 stolen bases in her freshman campaign, racking up a .349 batting average and a .512 slugging percentage. In the circle, Durham returns after an impressive freshman season in which she posted a team-low 3.27 ERA in 21 starts. The Abbeville, S.C. native also recorded the first seven inning perfect game in Holy Cross history, retiring all 21 against Colgate on April 13.
The Crusaders were selected to finish sixth in the Patriot League preseason poll, as voted on by the conference's coaches and sports information directors.
Admission to all Golden Eagle home regular season games is free.