Tech pitchers fan 16 but fall 7-2 in home opener

Tech pitchers fan 16 but fall 7-2 in home opener

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Three Tech pitchers combined for 16 strikeouts, but Tech’s bats were quieted by Cleveland State pitcher Anthony Sambula as the Tennessee Tech baseball team fell to CSU 7-2 in the first game a three-game set on Friday evening.

Adam Liberatore got the start for Tech and struck out eight batters in 4.2 innings, allowing three earned runs. Wade Bilbrey came in and went 1.2 innings and struck out four. Freshman Nick Price threw the final 2.2 innings and fanned four batters.

Sambula pitched 8.2 innings for CSU and struck out 10 Tech batters, and allowed just two runs in the win, handing Tech its first home-opening loss since 2005.

“Their kid threw really well, and we didn’t play well,” TTU head coach Matt Bragga said. “They were better than us today. When we come out tomorrow hopefully we’ll be better than we were today. We’ll be back, we have a good team with a lot of good players and we’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

In a 6-0 hole in the bottom of the fifth inning Tech got back-to-back hits to start the inning. Chad Hayes singled to center field and Casanova Donaldson double to right center, which set up a sacrifice fly from Frankie Beech that made the score 6-1. But Tech was unable to do anymore damage in the inning.

After CSU made the score 7-1 in the seventh inning, A.J. Kirby-Jones hit his second home run of the season for the deciding 7-2 margin.

Tech had runners on base in all nine innings, but hit into double plays in the first three, and stranded 10 runners in the final six.

“Those double-plays are really big, especially when you’re trying to get something going,” Bragga said. “That’s part of the game. We need to be tougher and be able to battle back from those situations.”

Beech and Chad Oberacker each had two hits in the game. Oberacker went 2-for-4, while Beech went 2-for-2 with an RBI. Tech finished with two runs on eight hits and two errors, while Cleveland State had seven runs on eight hits and no errors in the game.

The second game of the three-game series will be played Saturday at Bush Stadium beginning at 1 p.m. The two teams will wrap up the set with a game on Sunday at 1 p.m.