MOREHEAD, Ky. – The Morehead State softball team’s good fortune at home did not last more than a few days as the Eagles fell in a pair of five-inning decisions to Tennessee Tech on Wednesday at University Field. The Golden Eagles topped MSU 9-1 in the opener and then 8-0 in the nightcap.
The Eagles had moments where they were able to hang with the visitors, but in the end two bad innings in each game sent the Blue and Gold to 2-4 at home this season.
Morehead State (2-22 / 1-7) entered the doubleheader on a high having beaten Austin Peay in its second game on Sunday 9-1 in five innings. On Wednesday, that role was reversed.
Right from the start, the omen was ominous for the Eagles as they surrendered three runs on two hits, with two wild pitches and one passed ball, while also hitting one batter and committing two errors in the top of the first inning of the opener. The hosts’ struggles continued in the second when another hit and a third miscue in the field led to another run. All four Golden Eagle scores in the first two innings were unearned.
MSU coach Samantha Jones made some defensive changes to start the second inning, but it was not enough to slow Tennessee Tech (22-9 / 5-3).
The misfortune continued in the third inning when three straight walks loaded the bases and the Golden Eagles’ No. 9 batter, senior left fielder Shelby Penning, hit a grand slam over the right-center-field fence.
That forced Jones to make a change in the circle, turning to Madi Ogden.
The freshman right-hander was able to stem the tide, but the damage was done and the visitors led 8-0.
Morehead State did not roll over. The Eagles put a woman on base in four of the five innings, including the bottom of the second when a double by senior shortstop / catcher Peyton Slater dropped to the ground when Penning lost the ball in the sun.
MSU was able to get on the scoreboard in the fourth. After junior second baseman / shortstop Kirya Kingery was hit by a pitch, she took second by tagging up on a deep fly ball to left field. Sophomore second baseman Peyton Jordan, who was making her return after missing the last 17 games due to an injury, singled to center field to drive in Kingery. Jordan advanced to third on the play after a throwing error, but the inning ended with her stranded there.
Penning, who also stood out using her glove, repeatedly making plays to help contain the Eagle bats, hit her second home run of the day to lead off the fifth, pushing the margin back to eight runs. However, a Peyton Rose to Jordan to Alexis Strother double play thwarted any additional scoring opportunities.
Strother walked to lead off the fifth and freshman pitcher / designated player Bree Sexton was hit by a pitch, but they proved to be the Eagles’ final two baserunners of the game.
Slater and Jordan accounted for MSU’s hits, with Jordan also recoding an RBI and Kingery the team’s run.
In the circle, Sexton (0-3) took the loss after pitching two innings. She surrendered eight runs, but only four earned, on four hits and four walks. She did not register a strikeout. Ogden finished the game and yielded two hits and one run. She struck out three and walked two.
Penning accounted for two of her squad’s six hits. She also scored twice and drove in five runs. All nine Golden Eagles to come to the plate either had a hit or scored a run. Freshman Tyler Erwin went the distance in the circle and earned the win to improve to 8-1. She allowed two hits and one run, while walking two and striking out two.
Just like in the first game, TTU took advantage of the Eagles’ first-inning struggles, plating four unearned runs. A pair of hits, followed by double steal, led to the first run. From there, the visitors added a walk, a hit batsman and a dropped fly ball in the outfield, which accounted for three more runs.
A one-out single and then back-to-back homers by junior pitcher Haeli Bryson and sophomore first baseman Abby Buettner, respectively, pushed the margin to 7-0.
It was not all doom and gloom for MSU. Aside from the missteps in the field and surrendering five home runs, the Eagles actually played even with Tennessee Tech for most of the afternoon.
“Maddi G (ailor) did a great job having hard hits and getting on base consistently. Kirya did a great job of getting on base with hit by pitches and stealing a couple of bags. Trinity (Spear) made a great play out in the outfield to double-up a runner at second base, “said Jones. “A lot of times when the ball was hit hard into the infield our infield did a great job of recovering and finishing out plays. We unfortunately just weren’t able to put more runs up on the scoreboard and keeping those hitters off balance as they were a very good hitting team. “
Kingery (hit by pitch) and Jordan (walk) both reached base in the bottom of the first, Gailor doubled to left-center field in the third and junior first baseman Taylor Rhea notched an infield single in the fourth to mount a threat for the Eagles. But in each case, they were left stranded.
Tennessee Tech added a pair of singles in the third, but a diving catch by Spear in center field began a double play as Spear followed by picking off the runner at second base. Another TTU single in the fourth appeared to start another rally, but it was quashed by the Eagle defense.
A pair of walks with two outs in the fifth set up another scoring chance, but it went by the wayside after Rhea made a diving catch in foul territory to end the inning.
The hosts put together one last surge in the bottom of the fifth after Gailor and Kingery hit back-to-back two-out singles. But a deep shot to center field was hauled in by sophomore Kaylan Cole to end the game.
Gailor, Kingery and Rhea each had singles for the Eagles, with Gailor also adding a double. Seven Golden Eagles recorded hits. Sophomore second baseman Mackenzie Fitzgerald and Bryson led the team with two apiece. Bryson also had two RBIs. Bryson and senior shortstop Sydney Love-Baker each scored twice.
Sophomore Lennon Spicer pitched five innings and suffered the loss to fall to 2-10 on the season. She allowed nine hits, eight runs, five earned runs and three walks, while also striking out three. Bryson raised her record to 4-2 with the win. She pitched five scoreless innings and surrendered four hits and one walk, while finishing with three strikeouts.
Morehead State returns to the road for a three-game swing at Southeast Missouri State this weekend. Game one is Saturday at 5 pm ET, with the final two contests on Sunday. The first of those games will start at noon ET.
The Eagles are back home next Wednesday when the team hosts Kentucky State for a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m.