By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – With just two weeks remaining in the Tennessee Tech softball team's regular-season schedule – potentially three if the weather forces any postponements to the Ohio Valley Conference's built-in make-up week – the Golden Eagles are clinging on to a spot in the postseason tournament.
And Tech (18-21, 8-8 OVC) can help its cause in a big way on Friday, weather permitting, should it take two from Austin Peay (23-17, 8-4 OVC). Game time is scheduled for a 4 p.m. start. The games will be broadcast on ESPN+ (subscription required) with Dylan Vazzano providing the call.
The Governors have split its last six contests, alternating wins and losses against Jacksonville State, Murray State and Southeast Missouri in the last two weeks. APSU had a pair of games scheduled at UT Martin last week, but rain washed those out and those have been added to the make-up week, along with a pair of games at SIUE.
The Govs also have a tenuous hold on fifth place with the same number of conference wins as Belmont and Tech with eight, but have played four fewer league games. The Bruins and the Golden Eagles are currently tied for sixth, with UT Martin (7-7 OVC) right there with one fewer league win and the same winning percentage.
Meanwhile, Austin Peay and Tech both have work to do to try to get into the top four seeds and avoid playing in the single-elimination first round contests. With six league contests remaining for the Golden Eagles and 10 for Austin Peay, there's still room to climb to the top of the standings, but that window is quickly closing.
Murray State holds the top spot with an 11-3 record in the league, holding off Jacksonville State and Eastern Kentucky (both at 12-4) by percentage points. Southeast Missouri, one of Tech's opponents in the final scheduled weekend next week is in fourth at 10-4 in league play. Tech also plays the Skyhawks In the final week.
But the focus at hand is on the Governors. Austin Peay comes into the contest as the fifth-best hitting team in the OVC and the third-best pitching staff. As a team, the Govs are hitting .285 and have outscored their opponents 194-132.
Tech is 72-23 all-time against Austin Peay, but the Govs have won the last three meetings.
And APSU definitely has some offensive weapons. Danielle Liermann is hitting .331 on the year with a team-high 14 home runs and 32 RBI. Carly Mattson (.344) has 10 doubles, nine home runs and 25 RBI, while Morgan Rackel is a dual threat, hitting .307 with seven doubles, eight home runs and 28 RBI – as well as being the Govs' top pitcher.
In the circle, Rackel has a 2.21 ERA with a 17-5 record. In 142 2/3 innings, she has walked 27 and struck out 169. She has five shutouts on the year along with 19 complete games as batters are hitting .230 against her.
As a staff, Austin Peay's pitchers have a 2.85 ERA with opponents hitting .263.
It could be another pitchers' duel with Alyssa Arden along the way. The Tech freshman, in her last eight outings, has a 1.73 ERA, despite a 4-4 record with seven starts and six complete games and two no-hitters. In that 48 2/3 inning span, she has allowed 15 runs – 12 earned – on 31 hits with 21 walks and 42 strikeouts. Opponents are also hitting .186 in that stretch.
She threw eight scoreless innings against Western Kentucky on Wednesday, before yielding four runs – two earned – in the ninth.
In OVC play only, she has a 5-5 record with a 2.40 ERA with opponents hitting .196. For the season, she has a 2.83 ERA with an 11-10 record, opponents hitting .220.
Offensively, Beth McCulley leads the team with a .362 batting average, coming home to score 20 times. Sydney Love-Baker has a team-high 10 home runs and 26 RBI with 30 runs scored. Gabby LaSala (24), Raleigh Lewis (23), Alexis Trimiar (22) and Hallie Davis (21) all have over 20 RBI for the team.
As a team, Tech is hitting .254 -- .278 in OVC play. The Golden Eagles have been outscored 189-172 overall, but have outscored their conference foes 84-77.
All games at the Tech Softball Field have free admission.