Tech softball looks to lock down OVC berth in final regular-season weekend

Tech softball looks to lock down OVC berth in final regular-season weekend

By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – As the Tennessee Tech softball team enters its final scheduled weekend of the regular season, the Golden Eagles find themselves in a must-win situation.

And with Southeast Missouri and UT Martin coming to town this weekend, it's not going to be an easy task.

The Golden Eagles entertain SEMO on Friday for a doubleheader starting at 4 p.m., then the Skyhawks on Sunday for a 1 p.m. start with Senior Day festivities beforehand.

Both doubleheaders will be streamed on ESPN+ with Dylan Vazzano providing the call. Admission to all games at the Tech Softball Field is free.

Tech (18-23, 8-10 Ohio Valley Conference) would be ninth in the current standings, if the OVC Tournament started today, but with every team with the exception of Jacksonville State, Tech and Eastern Illinois having to scramble to play games, the standings are still very much fluid.

The Gamecocks continue to lead the race with a 14-4 mark, but the Redhawks (35-14, 12-4 OVC) are definitely in position to leap-frog back into the top spot with an additional pair of games left to play than JSU does – though the Gamecocks will entertain SEMO on Sunday.

Eastern Kentucky (26-16, 12-4 OVC) are in that same boat with room to move in the standings, as is Austin Peay (25-18, 10-4 OVC), who has eight games left to play after sweeping the Golden Eagles on Wednesday.

Murray State (21-23, 11-5 OVC) is conceivably still in the race for the top spot with some help and six league games remaining.

Belmont (26-19, 8-8 OVC), UT Martin (27-22, 8-8 OVC) and SIUE (15-20, 7-7 OVC), meanwhile, remain in striking distance for the Golden Eagles and have a tenuous claim on the final three spots in the OVC tournament field. UT Martin is at Jacksonville State on Friday before facing the Golden Eagles on Sunday, then close out the season with a makeup doubleheader next week at home against Austin Peay.

The Bruins and the Cougars could make things a little more interesting this weekend as they play each other on Sunday. Belmont is at Eastern Illinois on Friday, while SIUE hosts Tennessee State. The Bruins will also host Eastern Kentucky next weekend, while SIUE hosts Murray State and Austin Peay next week.

But the goal for the Golden Eagles is simply just win.

The Redhawks come into the Friday series with the top offense in the conference, hitting .311 as a team with the most hits (406), second-most doubles (68), most triples (19) and most home runs (59). They're no slouch in the circle either with the second-best team ERA (2.82) and third-most strikeouts (248).

The combo of Rachel Anderson and Ashley Ellis has been wrecking defenses all season long. Anderson leads SEMO with a .458 batting average with 66 hits – 11 doubles, eight triples and 10 home runs – to go along with 45 RBI. Ellis is hitting at a .359 clip, collecting a team-high 13 home runs and 48 RBI.

In the circle, Haley Thogmartin has a 16-6 record and a 1.91 ERA. In 131 2/3 innings, she has allowed 29 walks and struck out 111 with opponents hitting .234 against her. Rachel Rook (8-3, 2.64) and Alexis Estes (7-2, 3.03) could also see action in the twinbill.

SEMO dropped a pair of games against SEC foe Missouri on Tuesday, but have won six of its last eight OVC matchups.

One of the longest running OVC rivalries for the Golden Eagles, Tech owns a 48-43 record against the Redhawks, dating back to 1992. SEMO has won the last three meetings and split the last 10.

Against the Skyhawks, Tech is 47-36. UTM has won the last six games and seven of the last 10.

UT Martin split a pair of games Wednesday against Memphis and have won three of its last eight OVC contests.

Paige Clark leads the Skyhawks in batting average with a .401 mark, while Gracyn McBride and Alli Fulcher each have a team-high 29 RBI and six home runs each.

In the circle, Erin Gallagher (2.41), Lexi Ray (3.04) and Hannah Ridolfi (3.74) each have seven wins as the staff has a 3.11 ERA, walking 99 and striking out 173.

For the Golden Eagles, Beth McCulley leads Tech at the plate with a .353 average and nine doubles, while Sydney Love-Baker leads the Golden Eagles with 30 runs scored, 10 home runs and 26 RBI.

Alyssa Arden has seen just under half of the total innings pitched for the Golden Eagles this season, collecting an 11-11 record and 2.88 ERA in 133 2/3 frames of work, walking 65 and striking out 104. Opponents are hitting .225 against her.

Sunday will also be Senior Day for the Golden Eagles as Tech will honor its four seniors – first base Hallie Davis, third base Gabby LaSala, catcher Ashley McGowan and outfield/pitcher Leigh Ellen Thomas.