Nixon ties school record with three home runs to push Skyhawks past Memphis
In a neutral site contest between in-state foes at the Henderson County Sportsplex, the UT Martin softball team bashed a school record six home runs en route to an 11-9 win over Memphis.
The Skyhawks (21-19) capped off non-conference play by hitting the road and traveling to Lexington, Tennessee for a neutral site showcase in front of an impressive crowd.
With UT Martin boasting three players who call Lexington home, the squad muscled up to set a new school single-game record with six home runs while outslugging the Tigers in the midweek affair.
After the two teams met just two weeks ago in Martin with Memphis squeaking out a 2-1 victory, the script was completely flipped Tuesday night as the two teams combined to score 20 runs, tally 26 hits and launch seven home runs into the Lexington twilight.
Leading the way for the Skyhawks was Kiersten Nixon who went 3-for-4 with three home runs while driving in four RBIs. With Nixon’s impressive evening, she joined former standout Carly Gonzales as the only Skyhawks to hit three home runs in a single game. Along with her explosive work in the batter’s box, Nixon also picked up her first win of her Skyhawk career on the pitching rubber after allowing one earned run in 3.1 innings of work.
While Nixon stole the show, there were several supporting actors in the Skyhawk win.
Lexington native Kaitlyn Kelley hit her 34th career home run in front of her hometown supporters to move into sole possession of second place in UT Martin history.
Meanwhile, reigning OVC Player of the Week Katie Dreiling continued her hot streak by hitting her fourth home run in the last four games with a solo blast in the first inning.
Rounding out the home run derby for the Skyhawks was Maddi Long who launched her fourth home run of the season.
Memphis (8-36) saw its lineup feature five players which recorded multi-hit outings. Sam Ibison and Kendall Lee led the way with three hit contests while the trio of Linsey Hargis, Taylor Smrt and Kelsie Adams also notched a pair of base knocks.
A marathon game which exceeded three hours saw the Skyhawks jump out to an early lead with a solo blast from Dreiling in the top of the first inning. The home run was a familiar sight for the Skyhawks as Dreiling has hit a home run in the first inning of the last three games.
Memphis quickly responded in the bottom half of the first inning. A single to right field by Smrt tied up the contest at one run apiece before a sacrifice fly from Meagan Chism and a single up the middle by Adams gave the Tigers a 3-1 advantage.
After Memphis added to its lead in the bottom of the second inning with a RBI-double by Lee, the Skyhawks began their comeback attempt in the top of the third. Nixon worked an eight-pitch at bat before launching her first home run of the night to cut the deficit in half.
Still trailing by two runs, UT Martin used a big fourth inning to retake the lead. Long led off the frame by smoking a 2-0 pitch over the left field wall for a solo blast. Then after two Skyhawks reached base via a walk and a single, Kelley made the most of her hometown visit by blasting a three-run homer to right center to give the squad the advantage. The Skyhawks weren’t done in the inning however, as Avry Blume gave the team a 7-4 lead with a sacrifice fly later in the inning.
Much like in the first, the lead was short-lived for the Skyhawks as the Tigers fought back in the bottom half of the inning. A single by E’mya Munford cut into the margin before Smrt followed up the RBI-single with a two-run home run to center to tie the game at 7-7.
With the game knotted up once again, the Skyhawks looked for a lead which they would not relinquish down the stretch. After a walk by Jordyn Hustey to lead off the inning, Nixon came through once again by blasting a two-run home run to put the squad on top 9-7.
Nixon was not done leaving her mark on the game as the Tigers continued to pitch to her and she made them pay once again. After a two-out walk to Anna Hazlewood in the sixth inning, Nixon connected on her record-tying third home run of the game to push the Skyhawks advantage out to 11-7.
Clinging to a four-run advantage, Memphis would not go away quietly in the bottom of the seventh. An uncharacteristic inning for the Skyhawk defense saw the squad cough up three errors while the Tigers made the pay, brining the potential tying run to the plate with two outs, but Nixon capped off her special night by clinching her first win of the season by a final score of 11-9.
UT Martin wraps up the regular season portion of its 2023 schedule when the Skyhawks travel to OVC rival Southeast Missouri this weekend. The three-game series begins with a single game on Saturday before wrapping up with a doubleheader on Sunday.
(UTM Sports Information)