Golden Eagle softball opens up OVC play at EKU, Morehead

Golden Eagle softball opens up OVC play at EKU, Morehead

By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information

RICHMOND, Ky. – In Tennessee Tech's 34 seasons of softball, the Golden Eagles haven't faced any teams more than Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State.

Nearing or over the century mark against both schools – the 97th against the Colonels and the 109th against the Eagles – it's almost fitting that the Golden Eagles open their 26th season of Ohio Valley Conference softball play against those two squads.

Tech will travel to Richmond on Friday, playing EKU in a doubleheader starting at 3 p.m., then following it up with a jaunt over to Morehead, Ky., to face MSU in a Sunday twinbill with an 11 a.m. start.

Sunday's games vs. Morehead will be available to stream via ESPN+ (subscription required).

The Colonels have won six of their last seven, including a sweep at the UNC Wilmington tournament this past weekend, with a pair of wins over the host school, two wins over Canisius and a victory over Youngstown State. The Colonels dropped a 6-5 decision to in-state rival Western Kentucky on Wednesday. EKU is currently 13-10 on the season.

In the all-time series, Tech holds a 56-41 record against the Colonels, including a 14-8 mark in the OVC Tournament. The Golden Eagles have not won against EKU since a 6-0 victory on May 7, 2016 in Cookeville, losing eight straight against EKU. Tech head coach Bonnie Graham is 6-13 against the Colonels as a coach after going 9-5 against them as a pitcher.

As a team, the Colonels are hitting .289, led by Sammi Miller with a .419 average. She has 18 runs scored and 11 RBI and is a threat on the base path, stealing 11 bases in 13 tries. Destinee Lizzmore (.347) has come home to score a team-high 22 times, while driving in 12 herself thanks to a team-high seven home runs. However, Hannah Clark (.365) has been the most adept to driving in runners, picking up 26 RBI with eight doubles and six home runs.

For EKU in the circle, the team has a 3.40 ERA, with opponents hitting .232. Mollie Paulick (5-5, 3.13) leads the team in wins, while walking 16 and striking out 51 with batters hitting .224. Samantha Reynoso (4-1, 3.56) and Bethany Todd (2-1, 3.06) have also put together strong numbers, combining for 24 walks and 68 strikeouts in their 87 1/3 innings of work. Opponents are hitting .190 against Todd, .270 off Reynoso.

Meanwhile, Morehead State holds a 2-17 record on the 2019 campaign, picking up its first two wins of the season in its home tournament last weekend with two victories over St. Bonaventure. The Eagles had lost 13 straight before the first win over the Bonnies, and lost its last three games, including a pair to Wright State.

MSU will face Jacksonville State on Friday before taking on Tech Sunday.

In the all-time series, Tech holds a 71-37 record against the Eagles. Tech has lost four of the last five meetings, but went 23-1 against Morehead between 1999 and 2007. Graham is 10-6 against MSU in her coaching tenure.

As a team, the Eagles are hitting .223 and have been outscored 176-60. Morehead State currently does not have a player with double-digit RBIs, but have a quartet – Peyton Slater, Aubrey Bennett, Alexis Strother and Cassie Griffin with six. Slater is in double-digits in runs scored with 10, while the Eagles have 26 total extra-base hits (14 doubles, four triples, eight home runs).

To compare, Tech has 38 (21 doubles, three triples and 14 home runs). However, Morehead's defensive efforts have yielded almost twice that – 72 (39 doubles, four triples and 29 home runs), leading to a staggering 151 RBI and 340 total bases. Teams have also stolen 37 bases on 41 attempts.

In the circle, Morehead has a team ERA of 8.70. Randi Hamilton (7.67) has both of the Eagles' wins, walking 10 and striking out 11 in 34 2/3 innings of work with opponents hitting .359 against her. Lakyn Largent (8.44) will be looking for her first win of the season with an 0-10 record in 16 appearances. She has walked 11 and struck out 15 with opponents hitting .359. Sara King (9.36) is 0-4 in 17 appearances and has walked 24 and struck out 19.

The Golden Eagles have dropped six of their last eight games after a 5-0 start to the month to keep a 7-6 record in March this season as Tech enters league play. Tech split a pair of low-scoring games against East Tennessee State on Saturday, then fell in a home run derby in a pair of losses at Samford on Tuesday.

Offensively, Beth McCulley has continued to be a solid leadoff hitter, leading the Golden Eagles with a .377 batting average and a .419 on-base percentage – besting Raleigh Lewis (.418) and Sydney Love-Baker (.412) by percentage points. McCulley is also Tech's leading base stealer, going 8-for-8.

McCulley also leads Tech in multiple hit games with eight this season – five with two hits, three with three safeties.

Love-Baker took the team lead in RBI as she drove in four with one swing with a grand slam against Samford. She has seven home runs on the year with a team-high 15 RBI. For runs batted in, Gabby LaSala has 13 and Lewis has 11, while Lewis is also the only other Golden Eagle with multiple home runs this season.

After a tough Tuesday for Tech pitchers, the season numbers have shifted a little bit. Alyssa Arden continues to lead the team in wins with a 6-4 record and a 2.85 ERA on the season. In 66 1/3 innings of work, she has walked 32 and struck out 53 with opponents hitting .226 against her. Haeli Bryson fell to 2-4 on the year, walking 14 and striking out 17 in 38 2/3 innings, while opponents are hitting .293.

Kayla Hughes (5.64) has a 2-2 record in 22 1/3 innings, walking 18 and striking out 17 with opponents hitting .299.