Eagles snap road skid with victory over Tennessee Tech, move within half game of qualifying for OVC Tourney
MOREHEAD, Ky. – A 10-hit performance by the Morehead State softball team on Wednesday helped the Eagles capture a 5-2 victory in the opening contest of a doubleheader against Tennessee Tech and in the process snap a 30-game road skid. MSU picked up where it left off and returned in game two to battle the Golden Eagles to a standoff through four innings before eventually falling by an identical 5-2 score in the twinbill at the Tech Softball Field in Cookeville, Tenn.
Tennessee Tech (31-15/13-9) entered Wednesday leading the all-time series 75-28, which included a doubleheader sweep in Morehead on March 30, but behind the play of freshman catcher Ilencia Lightbodyjunior center fielder Trinity Spear and sophomore pitcher Lennon Spicer, the Eagles picked up their first road win of the season and first since defeating UT Martin in the first game of an April 17, 2021 doubleheader. In spite of that statistic, it was the team’s third consecutive road win over the Golden Eagles in Cookeville.
Wednesday were the final two outings of MSU’s six-game road swing, with the victory in the opener ending a stretch of four straight defeats. It also ended Tennessee Tech’s run of seven consecutive victories in the series. In contrast, TTU had its four-contest win streak snapped, while also opening its own five-game home stand. The Golden Eagles moved to 12-4 at the Tech Softball Field, suffering four straight losses before winning Wednesday’s second game.
In game one, Lightbody paced the MSU offense with a 2-for-3, two-RBI performance. She drove in what eventually became the winning runs with a single to center field in the fifth inning. Spear also finished 2-for-3 and scored twice, while Spicer picked up the win in the circle after allowing just three hits and one earned run in five innings of work.
The 10 hits continued a recent trend of offensive fireworks for the Blue and Gold. In the last 12 days, Morehead State (6-32/5-16) has posted three of its top five game highs in that category, two of which resulted in noteworthy conference wins.
Maybe most importantly, the game-one victory moved the Eagles within half a game of eighth-place in the Ohio Valley Conference standings. Also on Wednesday, Eastern Illinois swept a home doubleheader with SIU-Edwardsville, which dropped the Cougars to a 6-16 league mark and a tenuous hold on the eighth and final spot in the OVC Tournament. If the Eagles qualified for the field, it would be the team’s first appearance in the event since 2016.
“We are very pleased with how our team played today in both games. In the first game, Lennon did a great job keeping (the) Tennessee Tech hitters off base. At the end, (she) got a little burned out and (we ) put Madi (Ogden) in who did a great job of containing the hitters,” said MSU coach Samantha Jones. “Our defense was stellar and made some big-time plays that could have been easily hits. There were at least two to three top-10 plays. Our offense did a great job all game putting pressure on Tennessee Tech by having multiple baserunners each inning . We finally capitalized and brought it all together to come out on top with a win.”
In the opener, the Eagles kept the hosts off the scoreboard for the first five innings. It was the first time MSU had held its opponent scoreless to that point since the second game against SIUE on April 15. However, it was the fourth time in the last nine outings, Morehead State’s foe scored its first runs in the sixth inning or later .
The Eagles were clearly in control right from the start. They put runners on base in each of the first four innings, three times reaching third. Meanwhile, the defense kept the Golden Eagles at bay by retiring the side three times in the first five frames.
That changed in the top of the fifth when MSU was able to break through and score four runs on five hits. Spear led off the frame with a single up the middle. A sacrifice but moved her up a base and she was able to come home after a single by second baseman Peyton Jordan aided by an error on the play. Senior shortstop Peyton Slater followed with a single to left-center field, with senior first baseman Alexis Strother making it three hits in a row sending home Jordan in the process. A wild pitch moved everyone up one spot, before Lightbody cleared the bases with her single to center field.
Morehead State added an insurance run in the top of the sixth when Spear hit a one-out double to center field. The next batter, junior left fielder Madeline Gailor singled to center to plate Spear.
Tennessee Tech got on the board in the sixth. A leadoff walk, followed by a sophomore third baseman Carmen Betts single and a senior first baseman Haeli Bryson double cut the deficit back to four. MSU turned to freshman pitcher Madi Ogdenwho after giving up a walk, struck out the next two batters and ended the inning with a fly out to left field.
Senior center fielder Shelby Penning homered to right field to lead off the seventh, but Ogden retired the next three batters to earn the team’s first save of the season.
Seven different Eagles picked up hits, with Jordan, Lightbody and Spear leading the way with two apiece. Gailor and Strother added RBI; with Jordan, Slater and Strother each scoring once.
Bryson was the lone Golden Eagle with two hits.
Spicer earned the win to improve to 5-16. She had three strikeouts and two walks. Ogden pitched two innings in relief and surrendered one hit, one run and one walk, with two strikeouts.
Freshman Tyler Erwin, who won one of the games earlier this season against SU, went the distance, but just her third loss of the season against 12 wins. She allowed five earned runs off 10 hits and a walk. She also had eight strikeouts, but three wild pitches.
In game two, both teams led off the second inning with their first hit of the game, but were left stranded.
Sophomore first baseman Abby Buettner homered to left-center field to open the third, but Slater answered with one out in the fourth with her second home run of the year with a blast to left-center field.
A Betts two-out, two-RBI double in the bottom of the fifth pushed the hosts to a 3-1 advantage.
In the sixth, Slater doubled to center field and came home during the next at-bat, a Strother RBI-single to right field. Penning hit a homer over the center-field fence with one out in the bottom of the frame. A two-out (??? left fielder) Brooklin Richardson single to left field scored the team’s fifth run.
Bryson struck out the first two batteries of the seventh and forced a ground out to end the game.
Slater and Strother each went 2-for-3 with an RBI. Slater also scored twice. Lightbody picked up the team’s other hit. Six Golden Eagles registered hits, with Buettner pacing the squad with two. She also scored twice. Betts had a squad-best two RBI.
Ogden (1-10) pitched six innings, yielding four earned runs on seven hits. She struck out a career-best six, while walking one. Bryson went the distance to pick up the win and improve to 6-3. She gave up two runs on five hits, with five strikeouts and no walks.
“In the second game, Mad (Ogden) did a good job keeping the hitters off balance. They just caught up to her speed and executed on balls that were on the white of the plate too much. Again, we were able to get runners on base but their pitcher and their defense did a good job of leaving us there,” coach Jones said. “Peyton had a for-sure, off-the-bat homerun that tied the game and Alexis scored a runner with her two-out hit. We have some things we want to work on and clean up before we take on Tennessee State for Senior weekend.”
Morehead State has moved its weekend series with Tennessee State to two games on Friday and one outing on Saturday. On both days action begins at 1 pm It also will be Senior Day. Next week, the Eagles will host non-conference doubleheaders against Rio Grande on Tuesday and Butler on Wednesday, before concluding the regular season next weekend at Murray State.