By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As Tennessee Tech softball gets set to head to Nashville this weekend for doubleheaders at Tennessee State and Belmont, the Golden Eagles find themselves in a must-win situation.
Following Wednesday afternoon's games, Tech (16-18, 6-6 Ohio Valley Conference) finds itself tied with Belmont (24-15, 6-6 OVC) and, by percentage points, SIUE (12-16, 4-4 OVC) for seventh in the league standings, essentially battling for the final spot for the conference tournament, which will be held May 8 through 11 at Choccolocco Park in Oxford, Ala.
Granted, that's just under a month away and there's still plenty of games left to play, but for the Golden Eagles, the competition doesn't get easier, even if all the games following this weekend are at the Tech Softball Field. Following a midweek non-conference doubleheader Wednesday against Western Kentucky, Tech entertains Austin Peay, Southeast Missouri and UT Martin to close out the regular season.
SEMO (30-9, 8-2 OVC) and Murray State (18-19, 8-2 OVC) are currently atop the conference standings, with Jacksonville State, who Tech split with on Tuesday, in third with a 25-11 mark, 9-3 in the OVC. Austin Peay (22-16, 7-3 OVC) is in fourth, Eastern Kentucky (21-15, 8-4 OVC) fifth and UT Martin (25-17, 7-5 OVC) in sixth.
Regardless, the focus this weekend is on the Tigers and the Bruins. Tech will face Tennessee State on Friday for a 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. slate, then travel to Belmont on Sunday to play two, also starting at 1 p.m, weather permitting.
Sunday's games are also scheduled to be streamed on ESPN+ (subscription required).
Tennessee State enters the weekend with a 9-21 record, 2-10 in the conference with victories over Murray State (one of the Racers' two losses in league play) and Eastern Kentucky. Tech owns a 64-13 record all-time against the Tigers and has won eight of the last 10.
As a team, the Tigers are hitting .253 and have 40 extra-base hits – 22 doubles, five triples and 13 home runs. Katie Schneider (.250) has driven in a team-high 13 RBI, while Reese Weber (.326) and Savannah Wallace (.238) are in double-digits with 11 and 10 respectively. Sarah Snell (3) and Megan Huppee (3) leads TSU in home runs.
In the circle, Raven Loveless leads the team in earned run average and wins with a 3.17 and 7-9 record. She has worked 99 1/3 innings as she has walked 24 and struck out 50, with opponents hitting .324. Jessina Espinoza (1-4, 3.54) and Katie Schneider (0-5, 5.06) have also made double-digit appearances. As a team, the Tigers have a 4.19 ERA with opponents hitting .317.
Tech owns a 31-12 record all-time against the Bruins, but the Golden Eagles have only won two of the last seven and four of the last 10 meetings.
Belmont is currently on a five-game winning streak, topping Samford 7-6, run-ruling Morehead State twice, then putting two wins over Tennessee State and is 11-4 at home this season. The Bruins will face Jacksonville State on Friday.
As a team, the Bruins have outscored opponents 205-112 and have 79 extra-base hits – 49 doubles, three triples and 27 home runs. Belmont is hitting .296 as a team.
Hayley Baker (.350) leads the offensive production with 24 runs scored, 12 doubles, six home runs and 34 RBI, while Alicia Veltri (.315) is close behind with 23 runs scored, seven doubles, seven home runs and 32 RBI.
In the circle, the staff has a 2.48 ERA with opponents hitting .224. Brooklin Lee leads the Belmont pitchers with a 1.99 ERA and an 11-6 record, walking 44 and striking out 115 with opponents hitting .210. Veltri (10-7, 2.24) has 35 walks and 106 strikeouts with opponents hitting .231.
For Tech, the team is hitting .249 while being outscored 168-148. The Golden Eagles have 70 extra-base hits – 34 doubles, four triples and 32 home runs.
Sydney Love-Baker leads Tech in offensive production with 25 runs scored, three doubles, two triples, nine home runs and 24 RBI. Beth McCulley (.366) leads the Golden Eagles in batting average, while Raleigh Lewis (23) and Gabby LaSala (21) have double-digit RBI tallies.
In the circle, Alyssa Arden (10-7, 2.86 ERA) has opponents hitting .211 with 50 walks and 86 strikeouts. Arden no-hit Jacksonville State on Tuesday for her third of the season – the most by a Tech pitcher in a single season – and her second against OVC competition after also no-hitting Eastern Illinois. She also took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning last week in a 1-0 loss at Murray State.
In her last four conference appearances, Arden is 3-1 with a 0.83 ERA, allowing four runs – three earned – on 10 hits and nine walks, while striking out 25 with opponents hitting .115 against her.