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- Local lawmakers split over failed medical marijuana bill; voters may have a say (04/26/16)19
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Tennessee-Martin defeats Southeast Missouri State softball team 3-2
The Southeast Missouri State softball team has pulled off several late comebacks during Ohio Valley Conference play.
Southeast was poised for another one Thursday, but Tennessee-Martin had other ideas.
The host Redhawks loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh and final inning but failed to score.
UTM's Houdini act allowed the first-place Skyhawks to escape Cape Girardeau with a 3-2 win.
"It shows you how evenly matched these teams are," said UTM coach Donley Canary, whose squad has won all three meetings against Southeast this year by one run. "They're a good team. We were fortunate to catch some breaks in the last inning."
UTM improved to 21-12 overall and 10-2 in OVC play. Southeast (12-18, 5-6) fell to sixth place in the 11-team conference.
"We had the bases loaded ... it was tough," Southeast coach Lana Richmond said. "Give them credit. When the pressure is on, they come through."
While the Redhawks have won their share of close games, all six of their OVC losses have been by one or two runs.
"We're right there. We just have to close it out," Richmond said. "They're playing hard. ... We have a lot of conference games  ahead of us."
Southeast dug itself a quick 3-0 hole after UTM's first two batters of the game singled and Leah Taylor drilled a Shea Cothren pitch over the left-field wall for a three-run homer.
"It was a tough first inning," Richmond said.
Richmond changed pitchers after the frame and replaced the sophomore Cothren with fellow sophomore Alora Marble.
Marble shut out UTM over the final six innings. She allowed three hits, struck out two and did not issue a walk.
"I can't say enough about the job she did," Richmond said about Marble. "She shut down a very good offense."
Southeast scored unearned runs in the third and fifth innings to set up the exciting finish.
Junior Kaitlin Wallace led off the bottom of the seventh with a routine ground ball to third that was thrown away for an error, which allowed Wallace to reach second.
Senior Evan Sallis, who caused havoc for UTM on the bases all day with her speed, bunted for a single as Wallace went to third.
Senior Cheyenne Gipson, Southeast's other speedster at the top of the lineup, beat out an infield single to load the bases.
"We wanted to come back," Sallis said. "We had confidence."
But the rally died there when UTM ace Chelsea Jones wriggled out of the jam. Southeast caught some bad breaks along the way.
Freshman Lindsey Patterson lined out to third base and Gipson was doubled off first. Junior Taylor Cowan also lined out to third after fouling off several two-strike pitches.
Jones (14-4) allowed nine hits, all of them singles and five of them never left the infield. She struck out seven and did not issue a walk.
"She's done a great job for us. We put her in some uncomfortable situations with our defense," said Canary, whose squad committed all of the game's three errors.
Gipson went 4 for 4, including three infield hits, to push her team-leading average to .366.
Sallis went 3 for 4, including two infield hits, and now is batting .303.
Sallis scored both Southeast runs, the first on a throwing error and the second after tagging up on Patterson's pop fly that was caught in foul territory along the first base side.
"SEMO puts a lot of pressure on you," Canary said. "Those first two hitters [Sallis and Gipson] can absolutely fly."
Richmond said the Redhawks had to use their speed at the top of the lineup because Jones was strong.
"We had a tough time with their pitcher," Richmond said. "We're blessed with speed. That's where we manufactured our runs."
Richmond said she started Cothren (3-6), who took the loss, because she had held UTM to five hits during an earlier 2-1 road loss.
"She had really been effective against a very good hitting team," Richmond said.
Kelsey Dixon had two of UTM's seven hits, including four off Cothren in the first inning.
Southeast returns to action this weekend with a three-game OVC series at fifth-place Tennessee Tech (12-18, 6-6), which is just one-half game ahead of the Redhawks.