CLERMONT, Fla. - The Virginia Tech softball team rode strong pitching performances and timely hitting to pick up a pair of wins Friday on the first day of the season, beating LIU Brooklyn 9-1 in 5 innings before holding on to beat Southern Illinois 4-2, at the Dot Richardson Collegiate Softball Invitational at the National Training Center.
In the opener, Tech fell behind 1-0 in the first inning when LIU Brooklyn scored an unearned run, but the Hokies responded with nine runs over the next five innings to end the game early. LIU pitcher Heather White had trouble finding the strike zone, walking the first four batters to tie it up before newcomer Amanda Ake gave the Hokies the lead with a sacrifice fly.
In the second inning, Tech sent 10 batters to the plate, scoring four runs to bust it open. Courtney Liddle drove in two with a single and then Ake drove in two more with a triple to make it 6-1. Tech ended it in the fifth when Kelsey Mericka doubled in a pair of runs after the Hokies scored one on an error to make it 9-1.
The Hokies drew a school-record 11 walks, which limited their offensive numbers. Mericka had two hits while Liddle, Ake, Kat Banks and Lauren Gaskill each had one. Kylie McGoldrick drew three walks to lead the way.
In the circle, a pair of freshmen dominated to lead the way. Maggie Tyler worked through the jitters of her first college outing to finish strong and pick up the win. She allowed one unearned run on two hits with two walks and five strikeouts n 4.0 innings. Kelly Heinz pitched a perfect fifth inning, striking out two.
In the second game, the Hokies jumped out to a 4-0 lead on Southern Illinois, but had to hold on for dear life to pick up the 4-2 win.
Mericka drove in Gaskill in the top of the first inning to get Tech on the board early and then a two-RBI triple from Ake - her second triple of the day - highlighted a three-run third inning. Betty Rose drove in Ake to make it 4-0.
Jasmin Harrell (W, 1-0) was simply dominating for four innings before the Salukis got their first hit in the fifth inning. A leadoff walk came around to score on a sharp single up the middle to cut into the lead.
The game would stay 4-1 until the bottom of the seventh inning, when things got interesting. SIU loaded the bases quickly, but Harrell got a strikeout to calm the storm. A sacrifice fly made it 4-2 and the Salukis re-loaded the bases with two outs, but Harrell got a strikeout of Kelsea Ashton to end the threat and the game.
Tech had eight hits in the game, two apiece from McGoldrick, Liddle and Rose and one apiece from Ake and Dani Anderson.
Harrell was blowing it by the Salukis for the most part, tying her career high with 12 strikeouts. She allowed two runs on four hits with four walks.
Tech (2-0) will be back in action on Saturday, taking on Chattanooga (0-2) at 4 p.m. and Fordham (1-1) right after.
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