Strong offense, no-hitter lead to softball success in Chattanooga

Junior outfielder Jordan Vorbrink catches the ball to prevent Tennessee State runner Emma Colegrave from making it to first base during the Chattanooga Challenge Saturday, Feb. 17 at Frost Stadium. The Lady Toppers beat the Tigers 16-4.

Casey McCarthy

WKU softball (7-3) powered through the Chattanooga Challenge this past weekend with a no-hitter from Kelsey Aikey and strong offensive displays.

Offensive barrages, which included 30 hits, 23 runs and 22 RBI across a pair of victories on Saturday, have been frequent in the early part of the Lady Toppers’ season. Nine players have batting averages above .260 on the year, with eight over .330. Aikey’s no-hitter on Friday was the program’s 12th all-time.  

“What a day we had offensively,” head coach Amy Tudor said in a press release. “We set the tone early and continued to hit from top to bottom of our lineup all day. We stayed mentally focused and didn’t let rain or field conditions bother us and delivered great results. I’m proud of how we fought today and I’ll take that from our players any day.”

Both Aikey and freshman Shelby Nunn have been impressive in the circle so far this season. Aikey (2-1) has an ERA of 2.23 with 16 strikeouts, including her weekend ERA of 1.66. Nunn (5-2) has an ERA of 3.5 with a team-high 27 strikeouts.

WKU fell to Tennessee Tech University 9-5 in the team’s opening game on Thursday after being put in a deep hole early.

TTU had a 7-0 lead in the fourth inning. WKU was able to find production from its offense in the top of the fifth, with a four-run inning to cut the lead to three runs.

TTU responded in the bottom of the inning with two more runs to put the game out of reach.  Freshman Jordan Thomas was able to cross the plate for the Lady Toppers’ final run in the seventh inning on sophomore Paige Carter’s second hit of the day, her second multi-hit game of the season thus far.

Nunn started and got the decision after 2.1 innings pitched with one strikeout and six runs allowed. Sophomore Haylee Towers relieved her, pitching three innings with three strikeouts and three runs allowed before Aikey came in to close out the game.

Aikey’s no-hitter, which featured seven strikeouts, led WKU to a 1-0 walk-off victory over Sacred Heart University in game two.

Sophomore Morgan McElroy began the eighth inning on second base as part of the international-tiebreaker rule. Thomas sent a standing double to left-center field to bring McElroy home for the victory. It was the only extra-base hit of the game.  

WKU defeated Tennessee State University 10-0 in five innings in the first of two games on Friday.

Going into the third inning scoreless, the Lady Toppers were able to break through, as Thomas scored on a double from freshman Maddie Bowlds, giving the team a lead that would never be challenged.  

Senior Brittany Vaughn and Jordan Vorbrink both hit their first home runs of the year, Vorbrink’s being the walk-off winner in the fifth inning, securing the run-rule victory.  

Nunn pitched her third career complete game, earning her fourth win of the season. WKU scored its ten runs on six hits.  

WKU couldn’t complete a comeback in its second game against TTU, losing 7-6.

Down 5-0 in the bottom of the third inning, the Lady Toppers were able to respond with a two-out single from Carter, and Vaughn’s second home run of the day to cut the lead to 5-2.

The Golden Eagles added two runs in the fourth before junior Kelsey McGuffin was able to help send Thomas home to bring the margin to 7-3. WKU was in position to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh. With the tying run on first, TTU held off the late surge and escaped with a win.

Aikey took the loss after allowing three runs without recording an out. Towers pitched four innings in relief, with three runs allowed and two strikeouts. Nunn closed the game, pitching the final three innings, allowing just three hits and no runs.  

WKU rode a huge offensive showing in 16-4 win over Tennessee State. Scoring runs in all but one inning, including a huge seven-run fourth, WKU secured its fourth run-rule victory on the year.

Three WKU players hit home runs, including Vaughn’s third of the weekend. Carter secured her first of the year and Engelhardt secured her second.  

Aikey pitched the final four innings of the game, receiving the decision, moving her record to 2-1.

WKU defeated host University of Chattanooga 7-2 in a rain-shortened weekend finale on Saturday.

Falling behind 2-0 after three innings, the Lady Toppers were able to respond in the fourth.  WKU went up 6-2 after freshman Kendall Smith’s home run in the fifth. Thomas brought home Engelhardt in the top of the sixth for the final run.  

Nunn went the distance in the circle, moving to 5-2 on the year, with three strikeouts in the game.  

The Lady Toppers will make their home debut this Friday in Bowling Green against University of Green Bay.  

Reporter Casey McCarthy can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]