Freshman left-handed pitcher Matt Poteete consistently pounded the strike zone for nine innings while his offense provided plenty of run support early in the University of Tennessee at Martin’s impressive 6-2 victory at No. 21 Missouri State this evening.
Poteete improved to 2-2 on the season after his commanding performance on the mound tonight. He went the distance – allowing only two runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out a career-high eight batters over nine innings. The Humboldt, Tenn. native fired 88 of his 119 pitches for strikes.
At the plate, Nico Zych went 2-for-4 with four RBI’s while Andrew Castillo added two hits, two runs scored and two RBI’s. Taylor Douglas (three hits, two runs scored), Matt Hirsch (two hits, two walks, run scored) and Fletcher Johnson (run scored) also contributed offensively for UT Martin, who improved to 11-24 on the season by outhitting the Bears by a 12-7 margin.
The Skyhawk offense got off to a quick start, scoring a pair of runs on three hits in the first inning. Castillo and Douglas each singled with one away and Zych followed by ripping the first pitch he saw for a two-run double to give UT Martin the early advantage.
Poteete pitched around a pair of baserunners in the bottom half of the inning, tallying a pair of strikeouts to shutout Missouri State (25-9), who is ranked No. 21 nationally in this week’s Collegiate Baseball polls.
UT Martin then padded their lead with three runs on four hits in the top of the second. Hirsch singled to lead off the inning and stole second to put himself in scoring position. Johnson then singled and stole second to put runners on second and third for Castillo, who clubbed a two-run double to center to make the score 4-0. After Douglas was issued an intentional walk with two outs, Zych came through once again with a single to plate Castillo and extend the Skyhawk advantage out to 5-0.
Poteete would register two more strikeouts in the second but the Bears pushed across one run to cut UT Martin’s lead back to four runs.
After another shutdown inning by Poteete in the third, the Skyhawks tacked on another run in the fourth. Douglas roped a triple down the right field line to open the top of the frame and he came in to score just five pitches later when Zych once again manufactured the run with a sacrifice fly out to center.
Poteete cruised through the fourth, retiring the side in order on seven pitches. Missouri State scored once in the fifth but Poteete avoided the big inning by stranding a pair of runners and getting some help from Castillo, who threw out a runner at home for the second out of the inning.
>From that point on, Poteete was nearly untouchable – as he retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced. He fanned the first two batters on his way to another three-up, three-down inning in the sixth and did not allow a ball out of the infield in a scoreless seventh. He needed only nine pitches to get out of the eighth inning unscathed before finishing out his remarkable effort with 11 pitches in a perfect ninth.
The Skyhawks will look to clinch at least a series victory when they tangle with Missouri State for Game 2 on Saturday, April 18. First pitch from Hammons Field is set for 2:05 p.m.