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May 30, 2010

Tech's post-season run ends in Jackson, JSU Gamecocks take OVC Tournament title

JACKSON, Tenn. – It was a rainy day with dry bats Sunday at Pringles Park for the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles as they faced off against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks to determine the 2010 Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Champions.

In the double elimination tournament, Tech had already shouldered a 9-7 loss from Jacksonville State in a game Saturday, making Sunday's game a must-win for the Golden Eagles. A victory would have instigated an “if necessary” tie-breaker game between the two teams to determine the overall champion.

Unfortunately, game two was not necessary as the Golden Eagles' eight runs on 11 hits from five different batters were not enough to trump the Gamecocks, who mustered 18 hits for 10 runs off  four Tech pitchers.

Just as they had done on Saturday, the Golden Eagles -- playing as the visiting team for the first time in the tournament -- jumped out in front of Jacksonville State for an early 4-0 lead after a scoreless first inning. Five Golden Eagle players combined for four runs off five base hits against starter Aaron Elias to take the 4-0 lead over the Gamecocks in the top of the second.

The Gamecocks responded with one run on one hit and an error in the bottom of the inning, but didn't really work freshman right-hander Tristan Archer until the following inning.

Right-handed pitcher Elias retired three of the next four Tech batters in the top of the third inning to bring up Bert Smith, Jacksonville's No. 2 hitter, who was later named the tournament MVP. Smith started a Gamecock rally with a double to right center field. Steven Leach contributed an RBI double and catcher Andrew Edge homered to knot the game at four-all. Another double by Kyle Bluestein brought Chason Choate in to the game with nobody out in relief of Archer. JSU worked Choate for one more run with one out off of a triple by Sam Eberle before he could induce two more groundouts to end the inning.

Jacksonville State earned two more runs in the fourth inning off of Choate and Stephen Pryor to command a 7-4 lead before Tech could respond in the top of the fifth. Ironically, the five batters who facilitated the scoring in the second inning for the Golden Eagles would remain the only batters to get hits over the course of the rest of the game.

Ben Burgess added his second hit of the game in the fifth inning off of reliever Tanner Freshour, and Jacksonville State logged an error and walked Chad Oberacker home with the bases loaded to put two more runs on the board for Tech. Unfortunately, the 7-6 game quickly turned into a 9-6 game when the Gamecocks responded with two runs in the bottom of the inning.

AJ Kirby-Jones threatened to start another rally in the sixth inning, hitting his 26th home run of the season off of sidearm pitcher Alex Jones, scoring two runs to bring the Golden Eagles within one, 9-8.

A 122-minute rain delay caused both teams to pack it away after seven complete innings, but both pitchers were relentless upon resumption. Lee Henry, having relieved Pryor in the bottom half of the sixth, allowed only one unearned run in three innings to hold the game to two runs after having pitched a complete game Thursday night. Jones allowed Burgess and Frankie Beech another hit apiece, but did not allow another run.

Burgess went 3-for-5 on the day with one RBI, while AJ Kirby-Jones brought in three runs on a 2-for-4 effort. In addition to Beech's two hits, Austin Wulf and Tate McMillan also added a pair of hits each for Tech.

The Gamecocks left 10 men stranded on base in comparison to Tech's eight men left on, but only logged one error on the game while Tech put up three. All seven of the Golden Eagle's errors in the tournament came against Jacksonville State.

Archer was charged with the loss for Tech, bringing his record to 3-2 to finish the season. Freshour pitched 3 1/3 innings to earn the win for the Gamecocks and improve to 6-1.

Five Golden Eagle players were named to the OVC all-tournament team. Burgess, Oberacker, Kirby-Jones, Beech and Henry all accepted medals post-game as Tech representatives of the all-tournament team.