Slugfest goes to Memphis, 17-12; Kirby-Jones knocks 10th home run

MEMPHIS, Tenn. --  The University of Memphis Tigers built a huge lead then hung on against a late rally by Tennessee Tech to take a 17-12 non-conference victory over the Golden Eagles Friday night in the first of a three-game series at FedEx Park.

The Golden Eagles (9-9) scored six runs in the top of the night inning, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the edge the Tigers had built. Memphis (6-3) led 9-3 after three innings and was on top 16-4 after the fifth frame.

Junior A.J. Kirby-Jones tied the school record with five hits in the game, including a double and his 10th home run of the season, and had six RBI for the second time in his career, one shy of the school record.

Chad Oberacker had four hits, including a double, and scored four times. Seth Edwards and Chad Hayes also had multi-hit games with two safeties each as the Golden Eagles pounded out 18 hits against four Memphis pitchers.

Memphis managed 19 hits in the game against three Tech pitchers, but most of the damage came against the first two. Wade Bilbrey pitched the final two innings for the Golden Eagles and held Memphis scoreless on just one hit.

Starter Adam Liberatore (2-2) took the loss for Tech, allowing nine runs in the opening three innings. He gave up 10 hits and walked one. Matthew Shepherd worked the middle three innings and yielded eight runs on eight hits, walking four and striking out the same number of Tiger hitters.

Five different Memphis batters had three hits apiece, including Tyler Huelsing who went 3-for-4 with a double and home run, and four RBI.

Starter Brennon Martin was the benefactor of the early Tigers scoring, claiming the win after pitching 5.1 innings. He gave up 11 hits and five runs while fanning eight Golden Eagle hitters.

Tech took a 2-0 lead in the opening inning as Oberacker singled, Kirby-Jones doubled and Cassanova Donaldson following with a single

The Tigers bounced back with three in the bottom of the inning and Tech’s only error of the game.

Oberacker singled in the second and later scored from second on an RBI single by Kirby-Jones, knotting the contest at 3-3.

The Tigers took control in the third with six runs on five hits, including a three-run bomb by Huesling, making it 9-3.

Two more in the fourth and five in the fifth pushed the lead to 16-4. Kirby-Jones’ home run came in the top of the sixth after Oberacker had doubled.

Tech’s rally in the ninth opened with a single, and error and a walk to load the bases. Oberacker’s RBI single started the scoring and McMillan did the same. Kirby-Jones followed with a two-run double and Edwards also doubled. The final run came on a sacrifice fly from Austin Wulf.

The teams hit the field Saturday at 2 p.m. for the second game of the series with Sunday’s finale set for 1 p.m.