By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The way Alyssa Arden was pitching on Friday, the Tennessee Tech softball team only needed one run.
But as the freshman mowed down the Eastern Illinois offense in the first game, all the visiting Panthers could do was muster a walk on a hit batter.
The one miscue was it as Arden collected her second no-hitter of the campaign in a five-inning 8-0 affair in game one. Tech also won the second game In a come-from-behind fashion to take the sweep with a 5-3 win in the nightcap.
With the victory, Tech has won four straight OVC contests.
"I told them when I don't have anything to say after the game, that's a good thing," head coach Bonnie Graham said with a smile. "They did everything that we have been working on and asking them to do. They played a complete game from all sides of the ball and I couldn't be prouder."
Arden became just the fourth Tennessee Tech pitcher to throw two no-hitters in a season and the first since the former Bonnie Bynum did it as a freshman in 2004. Heather Peterson (two in 1995) and Katie Maroon (two in 1997) also accomplished the same feat.
It is also the first no-hitter for the Golden Eagles against OVC competition since Lori Bayless threw one against Eastern Kentucky in the 2003 OVC Tournament.
"It didn't even cross my mind until about the fourth inning," Arden said. "I didn't change anything – I just focused on doing what I was doing."
Arden (8-6) retired 13 straight batters before hitting Morgan Lamore in the top of the fifth, then retired the final two batters to complete the run-rule shortened no-hit bid.
"She's had some moments where we've seen the potential she has," Graham said, who threw five no-hitters for Tech in her 2004 to 2007 tenure. "Hopefully, now that we're later into the season, she's starting to settle in. She threw an excellent game against a good hitting team."
But it became a lot easier for the freshman when the Golden Eagles put a five-spot on the board in the bottom of the first. Sydney Love-Baker singled to left, then Raleigh Lewis drove in Jessie Lowery with a single up the middle. Gabby LaSala walked on four straight pitches, loading the bases.
Up to the plate was Hallie Davis. The senior hit a pinch-hit grand slam on Sunday at Morehead State, then facing a 1-1 count, went yard again for her second grand slam in three games.
"When that ball sailed over the fence, I felt like an elephant was lifted off my shoulders," Arden said. "That was awesome."
In Ohio Valley Conference play alone this season, Davis has two home runs and nine RBI, including the five she had in the first game against the Panthers. The only player to drive in more in league play is Lewis, who has 12 – including her six in both games on Friday.
"Honestly, all I did was change up my swing a little," Davis said. "Nothing had really been working and Coach V (Carly Van Auken) was like 'See ball, hit ball.' That's the mentality I've been taking out there."
Davis also drove in another run in the fourth inning. She faced a similar situation with the bases loaded, but was hit by the pitch bringing in Love-Baker on the forced run.
Tech also scored two runs the frame before in the third as Love-Baker scored on Alexis Trimiar's single back to the circle as the ball was forced out of bounds on the third base side. A fielding error on a ball hit by Ashley McGowan was enough for Lewis to come across.
Jade Montgomery (4-12) took the loss, allowing seven runs – six earned – on six hits in two innings and facing the first two batters of the third. McKenna Coffman came on in relief, allowing one run on two hits, while Jenna Robbins came in and coaxed the final Tech out of the contest.
EIU's pitching fared better in the second game as Hannah Cravens made her first start in the circle and kept the Tech bats silent for most of the game – well, just not Lewis'.
The Tech freshman was 2-for-2, driving in all five of the Golden Eagles' runs in the nightcap. In the first inning, she drove in Lowery on a single to right. In the third, Lowery came home to score on Lewis' sacrifice fly to left.
The big blow came in the fifth. After Eastern Illinois (10-25, 1-5 OVC) struck for three runs on two home runs to center field to take a 3-2 lead, Lewis found a golden opportunity in the fifth inning. Lowery reached on a single to third, then stole second, while Love-Baker reached on a walk.
The first pitch went outside for a ball. The second one was no doubt. Lewis' swing drove the ball towering over the outfield fence to put the Golden Eagles back up on top.
The offense clicking when it needed to certainly made the Tech coach happy on Friday.
"We've got really good hitters," Graham said. "When they see the ball and trusting the plan, good things happen and that's exactly what happened tonight. That's why we were having such good success, they were trusting themselves."
Cravens finished the contest allowing five runs – four earned – on six hits in six frames of work, walking two and striking out two.
Haeli Bryson gave up the three runs to the Panthers, yielding two earned runs on three hits in 3 1/3 innings. Kayla Hughes (3-3) came on in relief and pitched a gem as she worked the final 3 2/3 innings, giving up just one hit and a walk while striking out two.
The Golden Eagles improve to 14-14 on the season and 4-4 in Ohio Valley Conference play. They'll face SIUE in another league doubleheader on Sunday with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information