Fourth-seeded Tennessee Tech scored twice in the first inning Thursday and never trailed, going on to defeat No. 1 seed Southern Illinois University Edwardsville 4-1 in the second round of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament at Cougar Field.
The Cougars (40-15) now drop to the loser's bracket and will meet Eastern Illinois in Friday's opening game. First pitch will be 9:00 a.m. The tournament times have been moved up because of potential weather later in the day Friday.
"I wasn't unhappy with how they played," SIUE coach Sandy Montgomery said. "We had bad luck in the first inning, but I thought we battled."
Tennessee Tech (30-26) played as the home team despite playing on the Cougars' home field. After the first round of the tournament, home and visitor is decided by a coin flip.
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Angi Sakamoto led off the bottom of the first for Tennessee Tech and reached first on an error. Sakamoto and Cougar first baseman Rachel Keller collided at the first base bag allowing the ball to get away. Sabrie Need followed with an infield single to the left side. Both runners scored on a single to left field by Hannah Eldridge.
Jordan LaFave got the Cougars on the board in the third inning. Tess Eby led off the inning with a walk and Samantha Jones pinch ran at first. LaFave laced a triple to the wall in right center field to score Jones from first and cut the TTU lead to 2-1. LaFave finished the game 1 for 2 with the triple and RBI.
Golden Eagles' starter Danielle Liberatore allowed just four hits to the Cougars and improved to 17-11 with the complete game win. She struck out nine.
"Liberatore is a great pitcher. That's why she was the other first team All-Conference selection," Montgomery said.
Alex McDavid was 2 for 3 for SIUE and was the only Cougar with more than a single hit in the game. Whitney Lanphier added the other hit for the Cougars.
Tennessee Tech scored single runs in the fifth and sixth innings for the final margin. Olivia Bennett walked with the bases loaded in the fifth inning and Kelly Kennedy added a solo home run in the sixth.
SIUE starter Haley Chambers tossed her 22nd complete game of the year in the losing effort. The junior struck out 10 to raise her season total to 300. She is just four strikeouts from the single-season SIUE record. Chambers allowed all four runs, two unearned, on six hits.
"Haley threw well. She had double digit strikeouts," Montgomery said. "She gave up six hits, but there was nothing I felt like she wasn't doing well. She had command today, so we stuck with our ace."
The Cougars will meet Eastern Illinois for the second consecutive season at the OVC Tournament. The Cougars defeated the Panthers 4-2 in the second round last season in Jacksonville, Ala.
"They're fighters," Montgomery said of her team. "We are determined. They'll come out and play well and play hard. When your back is against the wall, your true character comes out, and I know what the true character of my team is."