By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech softball team gets set to participate in its final tournament of the year over the weekend, heading down to Athens, Ga. to take aim in the UGA Softball Invitational hosted by the University of Georgia.
The Golden Eagles (7-11) will play five games in the span of three days, beginning on Friday with matchups between Purdue at 9 a.m. and Georgia at 2 p.m. Tech will then clash with Purdue for a second time on Saturday at 9 a.m., which will be followed by a battle with Kent State at 4:30 p.m., before closing out its stay in Georgia with a second consecutive meeting with Kent State on Sunday at 8 a.m. All start times are in central time.
TTU heads into the tournament having won back-to-back games after sweeping Holy Cross in a doubleheader in Tech's home opener on Wednesday. The Golden Eagles flexed their offensive muscles to the tune of 16 combined runs on 21 hits in the twin bill sweep, including pounding out eight extra base hits.
Sophomore Olivia Bennett tallied three doubles and three RBI's in the two games against the Crusaders, while sophomores Madison Taylor and Samantha Cook, along with freshman Alyssa Richards, each hit home runs. Cook's and Richards' were the first of their collegiate careers, while Taylor's was her third this season to put her in a tie with senior Chelsea Burgess for the team lead.
Taylor is also tops on the Golden Eagles with a .309 batting average and 11 RBI's, while the Mt. Juliet, Tenn. native's 17 hits brings her dead even with senior Kendall Hooper for the team high.
Tuck took home the "W" in the first game after coming in relief of sophomore Hannah Weaver in the fifth inning, before eventually retiring the final five Holy Cross hitters to send the Golden Eagles into the winner's circle.
Ketchum recorded her best start of the year in the night cap, blanking the Crusaders in a complete game shutout in which the 6-0 righty out of Newcastle, Okla. surrendered just four hits. Hannah Weaver, the game one starter on Wednesday, has been in a groove of late, allowing only five earned runs in the last 15 2/3 innings to post a 2.23 ERA over that stretch. The Corona, Calif. native currently leads Tech with a 3.78 ERA.
Scouting the weekend's competition, Purdue enters the Invitational with a 6-11 record, having dropped five of its previous six games. Offensively, the Boilermakers have three players hitting above .300, including junior Ashley Burkhardt who is leading the team with a .404 average, five home runs, and 20 RBI's.
Georgia has gone through its 2014 campaign virtually unscathed, posting a 16-2 overall record. The long ball has been the Bulldogs M.O. this season, blasting 28 home runs in 18 games, with seven players notching at least three round trippers, led by sophomore Alex Hugo's six.
Georgia also has eight players hitting at least .340, including three players with at least a .400 clip in sophomores Samantha LaZear (.400) and Kaylee Puailoa (.404), along with junior Anna Swafford (.409).
On the rubber, the stats are just as impressive with a 1-2 punch of sophomores Geri Ann Glasco and Chelsea Wilkinson. Glasco has posted a 1.11 ERA in 50 1/3 innings this year, while Wilkinson boasts a 1.18 ERA, striking out 81 batters in 53 1/3 innings.
As far as Kent State is concerned, the Flashes are on a three-game winning streak to bump their record to 8-4 on the year. Sophomore Shelbi Tilton leads the team with a .364 batting average, while freshman Maddy Grimm has racked up the team's best power numbers with a Kent State high three home runs and 17 RBI's.
Inside the circle, the Flashes have three pitchers with a sub-three earned run average, highlighted by freshman Ronnie Ladines (1.13) and senior Lauren McNeil (1.26).
The Golden Eagles are 1-3 all-time against Purdue, 1-2 in their all-time series with Georgia, and won the only meeting with Kent State back in 2005.