By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It's a make-or-break weekend for the Tennessee Tech softball team as the Golden Eagles look to secure a spot in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament with six games remaining in the regular season.
Tech (16-27, 7-9 OVC) will have its hands full though as it entertains Eastern Kentucky (29-14, 11-1 OVC) on Saturday, then Morehead State (23-15, 4-8 OVC) on Sunday for the final two regular-season home doubleheaders of the season.
Both doubleheaders have a start time of 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. and will be carried live on the OVC Digital Network with Dylan Vazzano providing the call from the Golden Eagle Sports Network.
As of Friday, the Golden Eagles find themselves in seventh in the current OVC standings with UT Martin (7-11 OVC) and Morehead State (4-8 OVC) in eighth and ninth, with Murray State (4-10 OVC) still in striking distance. EKU (11-1), Jacksonville State (13-3), Austin Peay (10-4) and SIUE (10-4) currently hold on to the top spots with two weekends to go.
The Colonels have a formidable lineup, led by Paige Murphy, who is hitting .446 with 43 RBI and 16 home runs, as well as a 17-of-19 record on stolen bases on the season. While she may be a one-woman wrecking crew, her teammates are right there with Hannah Clark (.291, 37 RBI, 11 HR) and Destinee Lizzmore (.338, 29 RBI, 10 HR) putting up numbers that would lead many other teams.
As a team, the Colonels are hitting .277 with 61 home runs and 225 RBI. They have outscored their opponents 238 to 154.
In the circle, Mollie Paulick has a 12-5 mark on the season with a 2.36 ERA in 112 2/3 innings of work. She has walked 42 and struck out 109 with opponents hitting .228 against her. Murphy McRoberts has been a solid No. 2, collecting a 9-4 record and a 3.56 ERA in 63 innings of work, walking 26 and striking out 31.
EKU has won its last seven games, which includes conference sweeps of Southeast Missouri, UT Martin and Tennessee State. The Colonels' lone loss in OVC play came against Austin Peay on March 26.
The visiting Eagles haven't put together as much offense on the season as EKU, but still put up respectable numbers. Taylor Wheeler leads Morehead State with a .341 average, driving in 15 runs and has hit five home runs. Paige Scruggs (.304) has a team-high 19 RBI, while Ellen Barrett (.320, 14 RBI) also has five homers.
As a team, Morehead is hitting .254 with 116 RBI and 24 home runs, outscoring its opponents 131-125.
Chelsea McManaway, however, is perhaps the biggest reason the Eagles have been successful, keeping her ERA down to a svelte 1.89 on the year with a 15-6 record. In 144 2/3 innings of work, she has walked 50 and struck out 204, while opponents are hitting .155 against her. Allison Rager (3.01, 7-8) has reached the century mark in innings pitched and has walked 32 and struck out 55, opponents hitting .263 against her.
The Eagles have lost four of their last six conference contests, swept by Southeast Missouri and taking splits with Belmont and UT Martin.
As for the Eagles of the Golden variety, Tech is led by senior Cruse with a .305 average, four homers and 31 RBI. Raegan Sparks (.297) has a team-high 28 RBI and nine home runs, while Gabby LaSala, who has been Tech's leading hitter in OVC play with a .408 average and 12 RBI, has a .301 average on the season with 19 RBI and three home runs.
Admission to games at Tech Softball Field is free to the public.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information