The University of Tennessee at Martin baseball team was one strike away in the bottom of the ninth from claiming a victory over Memphis but the Tigers extended the game and eventually claimed a 2-1 extra-inning win at the WS “Babe” Howard Classic at USA Stadium.
The game, which was UT Martin’s longest in over a dozen years, lasted five hours and eight minutes before Memphis’ Damo DeMatteo – who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the 13th inning – ended the game with a walk-off single in the bottom of the 16th inning.
All four Skyhawk pitchers who saw action on the mound pitched exceptionally well this evening, as they combined to allow just 10 hits while tuning up 10 strikeouts against a Memphis (34-17) squad that was nationally ranked as recently as two weeks ago. Dillon Symon earned the start and allowed only one hit while fanning three Tigers over three shutout innings. Freshman lefty Daniel Shaw followed with a career-long 4.2 shutout frames of relief, conceding four hits. Patrick Bernard then registered three strikeouts while allowing one run in 4.1 innings before Cole Schaenzer (1-3) was charged with the loss, allowing one run on two hits spanning 3.1 innings.
The UT Martin offense began with a bang, as Matt Hirsch crushed the second pitch of the game beyond the left field wall for his first career homer. Andrew Castillo had two hits while Fletcher Johnson drew three walks for the Skyhawks (17-33), who were playing their last road game of the season tonight.
Hirsch’s blast was more than enough support for Symon and Shaw, who mowed down batter after batter while pitching in familiar surroundings. Symon, who hails from less than 30 miles away in Germantown, retired the side in order in the first inning and did not allow a hit through the first 11 Memphis batters. The Tigers made a bid to tie the contest in the third inning but Castillo rifled in a strike from left field to cut down Darien Tubbs at the plate as he tried to score on a two-out single.
Shaw, who is from less than 20 miles away in Memphis, entered in the fourth and immediately tallied a pair of strikeouts before inducing a flyout to end the inning and strand a Memphis runner on third.
The first batter reached on Shaw in both the fifth and sixth innings but the freshman showed remarkable composure. He got a 4-6-3 double play to end the fifth after a leadoff walk and recorded the final two outs on only eight pitches to erase a leadoff single in the sixth.
Shaw then posted zeroes on the scoreboard in the seventh inning and got two outs on the first six pitches of the eighth before Bernard came in. Facing runners on first and second, Bernard needed only three pitches to get out of the inning and keep the Skyhawk lead at 1-0.
Memphis placed the leadoff batter on base and he would later steal second with no outs. Bernard then got a lineout, followed by a strikeout and had Tubbs at a 1-2 count before he singled to shortstop to score Brandon Montgomery and send the game into extra innings.
Johnson reached on an error to lead off the 10th inning and he would eventually move just 90 feet away from scoring with two away but the Tigers escaped the jam.
Bernard posted shutout frames in the 10th, 11th and 12th, pitching around runners in scoring position in all three innings.
The Skyhawks placed two runners on the basepaths in the 13th but once again couldn’t manufacture a run. Castillo led off with a walk before he was forced out on a Taylor Douglas fielder’s choice. Austin Taylor singled through the right side with two away to put men on first and second but Memphis got through the situation unscathed.
Schaenzer’s first inning of work was in the 13th, as he got two quick outs before extending the game.
UT Martin had its best chance to go ahead in the 14th. Nick Pribble singled to center to lead off the inning and moved up to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Luis Paublini. Johnson then drew a walk and Hirsch reached on an error to load the bases with one out for Castillo, who lifted a fly ball into center. Tubbs completed the catch and fired in a throw that was on target in just enough time to retire Pribble trying to tag from third.
Schaenzer posted two more zeroes on the scoreboard in the 14th and 15th and the Skyhawks once again placed a pair of runners on base in the 16th. Pribble drew a one-out walk and Johnson was issued a two-out walk but Memphis once again got out of the jam.
Tubbs was hit by a pitch to lead off the bottom of the 16th and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, DeMatteo’s single proved to be the game-winner.
UT Martin wraps up the 2015 season this week when it hosts Ohio Valley Conference rival Jacksonville State on May 14-16. First pitch times for the series are scheduled for 6 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday, followed by a 3 p.m. start for Saturday – which will serve as Senior Day and Alumni Day.