Eagles split Saturday doubleheader to win series against Skyhawks


MARTIN, Tenn. – University of Southern Indiana Softball responded to a 6-5 comeback win by the University of Tennessee at Martin early in the day on Saturday by bouncing back with a 3-1 series finale victory, giving the Screaming Eagles the series win against the Skyhawks.
Southern Indiana concluded the weekend at UT Martin with a 16-14 overall record and a 10-5 conference record. Through Saturday’s doubleheader for USI, the Screaming Eagles will at minimum be tied for the most conference wins in the Ohio Valley Conference by the end of the day. Depending on results elsewhere, USI could end up in first place in the conference standings. For UT Martin, the Skyhawks leave the series with a 21-17 season record and a 7-8 mark in the OVC.
The Screaming Eagles started the day by taking advantage of early miscues by the Skyhawks’ defense. The first three in USI’s batting order reached base, loading the bases before an RBI single from senior first baseman Lexi Fair (Greenwood, Indiana) to give USI a quick 1-0 lead. With the bases still full, senior catcher Sammie Kihega (Greenfield, Indiana) cleared the bags with a grand slam to right field, increasing USI’s advantage to 5-0. The big fly was Kihega’s third home run of the season to lead the team.
In the fourth inning and trailing 5-1, UT Martin made some noise toward a comeback effort. The Skyhawks pulled within one run following a two-RBI double and an RBI single in the fourth.
UT Martin scored twice more in the bottom of the sixth inning to grab a 6-5 lead and then finished off the come-from-behind bid by keeping USI off the scoreboard in the top of the seventh.
Southern Indiana tallied its five runs on five hits. Fair was 2-3 with a run and an RBI in the contest, while Kihega recorded four RBIs in the game off the grand slam. UT Martin posted its six runs off nine hits.
UT Martin’s graduate pitcher Kierston Nixon was credited with the win, going to 4-4 this season, after pitching the last two innings and following senior starting pitcher Anna Hazlewood. Hazlewood tossed the first five innings in the no-decision.
Southern Indiana’s junior pitcher Whitley Hunter (Nashville, Illinois) was handed the loss, moving to 2-5 this season. Hunter struck out a pair and allowed six runs – four earned – in 5.1 innings of work.
In the second game of the afternoon, Southern Indiana struck first again, as Fair doubled home junior infielder Hailey Gotshall (Lucerne, Indiana) for a 1-0 USI lead. Gotshall added to the Eagles’ lead with a sac fly in the third inning.
Meanwhile, junior pitcher Josie Newman (Indianapolis, Indiana) was in her bag of tricks once again in the pitching circle. After Newman held UT Martin hitless through four innings and struck out 17 batters on Friday, the right-hander picked up where she left off in Saturday’s series finale.
In Saturday’s outing, Newman carried a no-hitter into the bottom of the sixth inning against the Skyhawks. That’s when UT Martin scored an unearned run on an RBI single, making the score 2-1 USI.
The Screaming Eagles made it a two-run lead again in the top of the seventh when Fair singled home sophomore outfielder Caroline Stapleton (Shirley, Indiana) toward the 3-1 victory.
Newman earned win number 14 of the season after striking out 14 batters in the complete-game effort. Newman gave up only one hit.
The junior racked up 31 strikeouts in the series, bringing her season total to 166. As a reclassifying program to NCAA Division I, USI does not qualify for the official NCAA statistical rankings, but Newman would rank second in the nation with 166 total strikeouts this season through Saturday’s action. Newman does rank first in the Ohio Valley Conference in strikeouts, wins, complete games, and innings pitched following Saturday’s doubleheader.
UT Martin senior pitcher Brooklyn Linneman dropped to 7-5. Linneman lasted a third of an inning after one run allowed on three hits before handing the ball off to the bullpen.
At the plate, USI notched 10 hits toward its three runs. Stapleton went 3-4 with a run for Southern Indiana. Fair had two hits and two RBIs, and Newman also had two hits with the bat.
The Screaming Eagles return home next weekend for Alumni Weekend at USI Softball Field. All USI Softball alumni are welcomed back with free admission, as Southern Indiana hosts Eastern Illinois University.