CLEARWATER, Fla. – The Texas Tech softball team held the lead until the top of the seventh inning, but the Red Raiders couldn't hold on and dropped an 11-5 decision to No. 1 Washington on Sunday at Eddie C. Moore Complex.
The Red Raiders, who nearly clinched their first win of a No. 1-ranked team since 1998, fought tooth and nail but couldn't overcome a six-run top of the eighth for the Huskies. Karli Hamilton and Heaven Burton led the Red Raiders with two hits apiece while Breanna Russell, Zoe Jones and Morgan Hornback each collected one.
Jones led the lineup with three RBI thanks to a three-run home run that went sailing over the left-field wall.
Senior transfer GiGi Wall struck out three Huskies in her third start of the season, but Erin Edmoundson was dealt the loss after entering the circle in relief in the top of the fourth.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Washington delivered the first blow of the game with a two-out single up the middle that brought in the first run of the game.
However, Tech was determined to stay in the fight and used a single from Hamilton and a walk to Russell for a pair of early runners. After getting into a hitter's count, Jones flipped the deficit and powered a three-run blast over the left-field wall off of pitcher Kelly Lynch to give Tech a 3-1 advantage over the top-ranked team in the nation.
Wall posted a pair of 1-2-3 frames in the second and third innings and Tech put pressure on the Washington defense once again in the bottom of the third. Husky pitcher Brooke Nelson entered the circle after Jones's home run and a one-out double from Russell started Tech's efforts. A passed ball moved pinch runner Payton Jackson over to third and freshman Brianna Cantu drew a walk in the next at-bat to put runners on the corners. However, an untimely pop up ended the inning and halted Tech's movement.
Back-to-back Washington doubles brought the Huskies within one run in the top of the fourth inning. With runners on the corners, Edmoundson entered the circle and Washington tied up the game, 3-3 with an RBI double to right-center field. Another Husky tried to score on the play but a perfect throw from Blythe made its way to Kelcy Leach in time and the Red Raiders stifled the Husky momentum with a rundown between Leach and Russell.
Though the Red Raiders were unable to answer back int bottom of the inning, they responded in the bottom of the fifth. After another pitching change, Burton singled to start the inning. A textbook sacrifice bunt from Russell advanced Burton to second and Cantu drew another walk to put runners on first and second.
Stepping up to the plate with two outs, pinch hitter Morgan Hornback unleashed a single to center field and Burton came around to score to give the Red Raiders a 4-3 lead. Pinch runner Yvonne Whaley made it around to third base on the single and she crossed home plate safely in the next at-bat after a wild pitch went rolling by Washington's catcher.
Holding a 5-3 lead, the Red Raiders drew another walk in the next at-bat and, as a result, forced Washington's third pitching change of the day. Despite having juiced bases, the Red Raiders couldn't put more runs up on the board and settled for a 5-3 lead through five innings.
An RBI single after a one-out double plated one more run for the Huskies in the top of the sixth and Burton tried to spark an answer in the bottom of the inning. The redshirt junior dribbled a sneaky hit to Washington pitcher Gabbie Plain, but she had no play as the speedy Burton reached first base as soon as the hurler picked up the ball. She immediately stole second and a two-out walk to Jones put runners on first and second once again. However, an untimely strikeout ended the inning and Tech stranded Burton and Jones.
Tech maintained its 5-4 lead heading into the final inning and need just three outs to claim the upset victory. However, A leadoff triple put pressure on Edmoundson right out of the gate. Tech responded with a pop up in right field and a perfect throw to home plate forced the Husky on third to stay put. With two outs to go, Edmoundson induced a grounder to third base but the only play available was at first and Washington evened the score, 5-5, on the out. Blythe came through on a fly ball in foul territory to end the frame, but Tech was unable to respond in the bottom frame – forcing an eighth inning.
International tie breaker rules went into effect to start the eighth and Washington began the top frame with a runner on second. Edmoundson stalled the Huskies' efforts with a quick pop up, but four hits plated six runs and the Red Raiders found themselves in an 11-5 hole.
Blythe started the bottom of the inning on second and Hamilton drew a one-out walk to put runners on first and second. However, the next two batters couldn't get ahold of a ball and Tech dropped the heartbreaker, 11-5.
With the loss, the Red Raiders drop to 7-3 on the season.
COMING UP NEXT
The Red Raiders will open up play at Rocky Johnson Field with their home opener against Kent State on Tuesday, Feb. 18. Live stats, as well as a live stream, will be available for the game. For all the latest information on the Texas Tech softball team, visit TexasTech.com or follow @TexasTechSB on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.