The 2015 University of Tennessee at Martin baseball team posted several positives in its first season under head coach Rick Robinson.
The Skyhawks played considerably better as the season went on, compiling 17 wins and nine OVC victories this past spring. The 17 victories were the most for the program since 2011 while the nine conference wins rank as the second-highest OVC win total in school history, trailing only the 10-win teams from 2009 and 2011. UT Martin’s six road victories also marked the most for the program since 2010.
UT Martin seemed to have turned a corner in late March, winning 13 of its 17 games from that point forward. The Skyhawks posted a four-game winning streak for the second time since 2012 to begin that span and took three OVC series in that stretch. UT Martin knocked off then-league leader Belmont (March 27-29), won the OVC season series over Austin Peay for the first time since 1993 (May 1-3) and also won the road series at Eastern Illinois (May 8-10).
The Skyhawks also posted one of their most impressive victories in recent memory on April 7, defeating No. 15 Missouri State by a 6-2 margin. That marked the program’s first win over a ranked opponent since April 10, 2009. Despite the series loss, UT Martin played the Bears even on the scoreboard in the three-game series, holding its own against a Missouri State team that is currently 45-10 and enters this week’s NCAA Regionals as the No. 8 overall national seed.
UT Martin also nearly notched another big nonconference win at Memphis on May 12 before falling by a 2-1 margin in 16 innings. The Skyhawks were one strike away from the victory in the bottom of the ninth before the Tigers – who spent significant time in the national polls throughout the season – rallied for the walk-off win.
One area of significant improvement in 2015 was with the leather, as UT Martin posted a .963 fielding percentage. That marked the third-best season fielding percentage in program history, as the Skyhawks’ 72 errors in 52 games were the lowest since the 2009 team committed 63 errors.
The offensive numbers also proved to be a marked improvement from the recent past. UT Martin’s 493 hits were 116 more than last season and were also the most since the 2011 squad banged out 522 hits. The 2015 team also slammed 39 home runs (fourth-most for a single season in UT Martin history), nearly doubling last season’s total of 21.
A veteran-laden pitching staff also clicked throughout the season. The Skyhawk hurlers combined for 10 saves and 331 strikeouts, which ranks second and fourth, respectively, in UT Martin single season history.
Robinson bid farewell to several all-time greats in 2015. Despite only playing for two seasons, Taylor Douglas ranks eighth in program history in home runs (18) and ninth in doubles (33). His 72 hits, 18 doubles, 11 homers, 47 RBI’s and 127 total bases during his senior campaign all rank in the top-10 in UT Martin single season record book. Nico Zych concluded his four-year Skyhawk career ranked third in at-bats (675) and fifth in games played (189), hits (182) and assists (302). On the hill, Carter Smith put the finishing touches on his four-year UT Martin career by ranking fourth in strikeouts (175), seventh in innings pitched (213.1) and eighth in appearances (63).
Junior right-handed pitcher Patrick Bernard shattered the program’s single season and career record with eight saves, ranking second in the OVC in that category. His eight saves are tied for the most in school history and rank as the most in a single season at UT Martin.
Alex Martin’s 72 strikeouts (third), Matt Hirsch’s 32 walks (fifth) and Andrew Castillo’s 15 doubles (ninth) also rank near the top of their respective categories in the Skyhawk single season top-10 lists.
Meanwhile, Dillon Symon became the 10th player and fourth pitcher in UT Martin history to earn OVC All-Freshman accolades. Symon compiled a team-low 3.95 ERA over 20 appearances.
In addition, a pair of Skyhawks were honored as an adidas OVC Pitcher of the Week during the course of the 2015 campaign. Smith earned the award on Feb. 16 while freshman Matt Poteete garnered the accolade on April 20. It marked just the second time in program history that UT Martin accounted for multiple OVC Pitcher of the Week honorees in the same season.