By Dylan Vazzano, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – For the 20th time in its illustrious history, the Tennessee Tech softball team will march into the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, entering the tourney in Jacksonville, Ala. as the No. 7 seed after wrapping up the regular season with an impressive 11-2 mark in the club's last 13 games.
The Golden Eagles (23-33, 15-12) will lock up with No. 2 SIU Edwardsville (27-21, 19-5) on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. CT in the second of four opening round games. With a win Tech would play the winner of No. 3 Eastern Illinois and No. 6 UT Martin on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. CT, while a loss would send the Golden Eagles to a 10 a.m. start against the EIU-UTM loser on Thursday in the double-elimination format.
All Tech games will be live on the radio or internet, as the Golden Eagle Sports Network will be bringing all the action on FM 106.1 The Eagle. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN. The entire tournament will also be streamed, free of charge on the OVC Digital Network. CLICK HERE TO WATCH.
TTU treks to Jacksonville on a five-game win streak, fresh off a three-game sweep over Morehead State over the weekend to close out the regular season. Behind a Kendall Hooper walk-off home run in extra innings, the Golden Eagles won the opener, 5-3, before a Hannah Weaver complete-game, one-hit shutout carried Tech to a doubleheader sweep on Saturday.
The Golden Eagles capped off the series in grand fashion on Sunday, pounding out six home runs en route to a season high 14 runs in a 14-7 victory. Senior Chelsea Burgess crushed two out of the park as part of a 4-for-4 day at the dish, leading to the Dunlap, Tenn. native being named the adidas® Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week.
Burgess ends the season in a three-way tie with fellow senior Kendall Hooper and junior Angi Sakamoto for the team lead with six home runs, while Hooper's .304 batting average is a Golden Eagle best, and Sakamoto's 31 RBI is tops on the team.
Hooper, who also led Tech with a .351 batting average during conference play, and Sakamoto were both named to the All-OVC Second Team, while freshman pitcher Danielle Liberatore secured a spot on the All-Newcomer Team.
Liberatore has won eight consecutive OVC starts, posting an impressive 10-2 conference mark with a miniscule 1.96 ERA, striking out 79 in 82 conference innings. Overall, the 5-foot-10 southpaw leads the team with 13 wins, a 3.09 earned run average, and 124 punch outs.
Sophomore Hannah Weaver has won back-to-back starts, defeating Morehead State twice over the weekend. The Corona, Calif. native surrendered three earned runs in 13 innings of work against the Eagles, coming within two outs of a no-hitter in Saturday's outing.
SIU Edwardsville finished the regular season in second place in the conference, posting a 19-5 OVC mark. The Cougars took both games of a doubleheader against the Golden Eagles in Cookeville back on Mar. 22, defeating Tech 8-2 and 1-0 behind a lights out effort from inside the circle by sophomore Haley Chambers in which the Coatesville, Ind. native did not allow a hit in a complete game shutout.
Chambers was one of four Cougars named to the All-OVC Second Team, accompanied by senior Chelsea Yankolovich and freshmen Allison Smiley and Whitney Lanphier. Yankolovich led SIUE with a .316 batting average, 49 hits, 30 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases. Smiley started 47 games at second base this year, finishing second on the club with a .308 batting average. As far as Lanphier is concerned, the Plainfield, Ill. native finished tied for the team-lead with 18 RBI, hitting a pair of home runs as well.
Overall, Edwardsville leads the all-time series with Tech, 9-3, winning five straight including last season's opening game of the OVC Tournament, 4-3.
Tennessee Tech has captured the OVC Tournament six times, with the last one coming back in 2007 in what was the program's third consecutive tourney title.