Jackson next stop for UTM baseball

Jackson next stop for UTM baseball
The UT Martin baseball team is — as Johnny Cash said in song — going to Jackson.
The Skyhawks clinched a berth in the 2011 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament for the first time since 1996 with a come-from-behind 7-6 victory over league-leading Austin Peay on Saturday at Skyhawk Field.
Trailing 5-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh, UT Martin (19-34, 10-13 OVC) lit up the scoreboard for seven runs in its last two at-bats. The performance gave sophomore Alec Mills his team-high sixth victory after tossed a career-high 8 1/3 innings – tying a career-high with seven strikeouts while not issuing a single walk. It was Mills’ first start of the season and second of his career, as he also started on April 13, 2010 against Lambuth.
“He threw yesterday and last weekend he had his longest outing of the season,” Skyhawk head coach Bubba Cates said of Mills, who was informed by pitching coach Trevor Berryhill he would start after the second game of the doubleheader yesterday. “We knew we needed to get a lot out of him today and in the back of my mind I thought if he threw four or five innings we would be in good shape. What makes his performance more impressive is that we had the long delays in the seventh and eighth innings and he got stronger as the game went on.”
The Skyhawks banged out 14 hits, led by senior Drew Mason – who reached base five times and tied a career-high with four hits. Trey Karlen recorded two hits, drove in two runs and scored two runs, while Jordan Owen extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a two-hit afternoon for UT Martin, who tied a program record with its 10th OVC season victory today.
While UT Martin did its part to advance to the postseason, the Skyhawks had to wait approximately 30 minutes afterwards to see if they would make the tournament.
With a Murray State loss to Tennessee Tech and an Eastern Illinois loss at Southeast Missouri, the crowd of 50 who anxiously awaited the result of the Southeast Missouri game erupted once word of the final out spread, as the team dogpiled each other on the infield.
“Our guys had a job to do today and they did their part,” Cates said. “To sit and wait is tough but what an exciting day – I’m glad our seniors will get another chance on the field.”
Seniors Dylan Cupples, Karlen, Mason, Wes Patterson, Cory Stooksbury and Cody Terry – who appear on the program’s top-10 lists an astonishing 69 times – were honored with a pregame ceremony to begin the historic afternoon.
Mills was charged up to begin the game, earning two punchouts while retiring the side in the top of the first. However, Austin Peay scored once in the top of the second and added three runs in the top of the third to take a 4-0 lead after three innings of play. After that, Mills settled down and retired 16 of the next 19 batters, allowing only a single and solo homer in the sixth inning.
Held scoreless through six innings, UT Martin erupted for three runs in the bottom of the seventh. Stooksbury was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, and after a wild pitch he advanced to third base on a single off the bat of Matt Young. Karlen then doubled down the left field line, scoring Stooksbury and sending Young to third base. Chase Okey was then hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs, and Mason ripped a single through the left side to bring in a run and make the score 5-2. Owen then reached on a fielder’s choice that brought in Karlen to bring the Skyhawk deficit to two runs.
Mills needed only nine pitches to retire the side in order in the top of the eighth, setting the tone for another big inning for UT Martin. Erik Larsen — who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning — ripped a leadoff single through the right side.
Cates then called upon Phil Sorensen to pinch hit and just as he has done all season, the freshman delivered — shooting a double into the right center field gap. On his way to the plate, Larsen and Austin Peay third baseman Shayne Martin collided, and Larsen was awarded home on the interference call.
Karlen then fought off a 1-1 pitch for a line drive single to right center to score pinch runner Kyle Bargery and tie the game at 5-all. Karlen, who took second base on the throw, advanced to third on a groundout to the right side by Okey.
With two outs, Karlen then scored on an error by the Governors, giving UT Martin its first lead of the afternoon.
Mason then drew a walk and after an Owen infield single, Terry scored on a heads-up baserunning play to give the Skyhawks a 7-5 advantage.
Mills recovered from a 3-0 count to induce a foulout for the first out of the ninth inning but after allowing a triple and single to consecutive batters in the ninth, Cates went to the bullpen while Mills departed to a standing ovation from the 312 fans in attendance.
Alex Boshers then took over, needing only three pitches to end the game. With the tying run on first base, Rolando Gautier lined a hard shot to third base, where Karlen was in perfect position to snare the liner.
After seeing that the runner on first base had drifted a little too far off the bag, Karlen set his feet and fired a strike across the diamond to Mason at first base for a game-ending double play.
The Skyhawks – entering the tournament as the No. 6 seed – will take on the No. 3 seed Jacksonville State Gamecocks in the first round of the OVC tournament at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25 at Pringles Park. These two teams met in Jacksonville in the first OVC series of the season back on March 26-27. Although the Gamecocks won two of three, UT Martin claimed a 9-3 win in Game 1 before falling 7-4 in the nightcap of the doubleheader. In Game 3, the Skyhawks held a 10-0 lead after the top of the fifth but wound up falling 13-12.

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