Feb. 7, 2014
RUSTON - Alayna Kipp drove in a career-high five runs, Hailey Winter blasted her first collegiate home run and three Louisiana Tech pitchers kept UT Martin at bay as the Lady Techsters defeated the Skyhawks 8-3 in their season opener Friday at the Lady Techster Softball Complex.
The game was the opening contest of the three-day, six-team Lady Techster Invitational hosted by LA Tech. Two more games were scheduled for Friday while Saturday will consist of six games and Sunday of three more.
Tech (1-0) defeated a UT Martin team that won 37 games a year ago and advanced to the title game of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament.
"I think we beat a really good team today," said Tech head coach Mark Montgomery. "I expect UT Martin to challenge for the Ohio Valley Conference title. We had some really good approaches at the plate. We had some good at bats against a very good pitcher. (Casey Vincent) was their No. 1 last year.
"We made a few mistakes late in the game. We can improve and get better. I'm proud of the girls today. This was a solid team win."
Kipp, who missed the entire fall while recovering from off-season surgery on both knees, finished the day 3-for-4 with two doubles and five RBI. Her two-run double in the bottom of the first inning plated Erin Kipp and Kristen Miles who both singled and gave the Lady Techsters an early advantage as Tech plated three runs in their opening at bat. Bianca Duran plated the third run of the frame on an RBI ground out.
"One of our focal points this fall and winter has been starting games stronger," Montgomery said. "I think we just came out and were excited and motivated. We scored those early runs and felt really good about ourselves.
Duran (1-0), who picked up the win in the circle, battled out of a difficult top of the first inning after surrendering a leadoff triple to Skyhawk centerfielder Kayla Wade. However, after a foul out produced the first out of the frame, Tech turned a double play on a fly out to centerfield where Wade was thrown out after being caught in a run down.
Duran settled down and tossed three complete innings in the circle, allowing only two hits and no walks.
Tech kept the 3-0 lead until the bottom of the fourth inning when Winter blasted her first collegiate home run over the left field fence, upping the lead to four. After freshman Tori Charters doubled down the left field line, Erin Kipp reached on a fielding error by the Skyhawks that allowed Charters to score from second. Tech led 5-0.
Pauline Tufi came on in relief of Duran to start the fourth and was impressive in her college debut in the circle. Tufi struck out four in 2.0 innings while allowing two hits and one run - coming on a solo home run by UT Martin left fielder Renate Meckl in the top of the fifth.
Leading 5-1, Tech responded with a single run in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single to centerfield by Alayna Kipp, scoring Miles who reached base after being hit by a pitch and then moved into scoring position with a stolen base.
Tech plated its final two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Erin Kipp led the frame off with a single and moved to second when Miles was once again hit by a pitch. One batter later, Alayna Kipp recorded her second two-run double of the game to up the lead to 8-1.
"Alayna is hot," Montgomery said. "She has been doing just great in practice too. I couldn't be more proud of her. It was a great day for her. Some of our other hitters will settle down. A few were over anxious and it will just take a game or two for them to relax."
Anna Cross pitched the final two innings for Tech, striking out four while allowing two runs - only one earned - on two hits and no walks.
The three Tech pitchers combined to strike out eight while issuing zero walks.
"Our pitching was really good," Montgomery said. "We made UT Martin make constant adjustments as hitters which played into what we wanted to do. All three pitched well today."
In addition to Alayna Kipp's day at the plate, Erin Kipp was 2-for-4 with 2 runs and Miles was 2-for-2 with three runs. Duran finished 1-for-4 with 1 RBI while Winter was 1-for-2 with one run and one RBI. Charters registered one hit while scoring one run.
Lauren Smith and Jessie Britt led UT Martin with two hits each while the duo joined Meckl with one RBI each.
Tech return to the field Saturday when they face Wichita State at 3:45 p.m. and Saint Louis at 6 p.m. The first action of the tournament Saturday begins at 9 a.m. when Jackson State plays Houston Baptist.
For the complete schedule for this weekend's tournament, fans can log onto LATechSports.com.