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Patience and power pay off as Tech tops Lipscomb, 15-14

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Smack dab in the middle of Tennessee Tech’s 15 runs and 18 hits was the big one, the clutch hit, the swing that turned the tide.

Right after the Golden Eagles had given up the lead and appeared to have lost control, A.J. Kirby-Jones slammed his 15th home run of the year, a two-run shot that lifted Tech back on top by a run and the Golden Eagles held on – barely – for a 15-14 victory Tuesday night at Lipscomb.

Runs came in bunches in this game, including a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth that pulled the Bisons to within one run before Stephen Pryor got a strikeout for the final out to record his second save of the season.

The loss for Lipscomb (10-19) snapped a three-game win streak, while the Golden Eagles (12-17) broke a six-game losing streak. Tech’s win also broke a five-game win streak by Lipscomb against the Golden Eagles dating back to 2004.

After Lipscomb methodically worked its way back from a 6-1 deficit to take a 7-6 lead in the bottom of the fifth, Kirby-Jones started a five-run Tech sixth inning with his home run. Four batters later, freshman Zephan Guyear’s two-run triple put Tech on top 11-7. Guyear was 4-for-5 with two RBI and scored two runs.

The bottom four spots in Tech’s lineup accounted for 12 of Tech’s 18 hits. In addition to Guyear’s four, Chad Hayes and Frankie Beech each had three hits and two RBI, while Ben Burgess added two hits and two walks. 

Kirby-Jones and Chad Oberacker also had two hits each.

Starter Chason Choate faced a dilemma in the first inning, loading the bases against the first three batters, but he got three fly balls to get out of the inning allowing just one run.

The Golden Eagles took advantage of some pitching mistakes in the top of third to score six runs on just five hits. Four wild pitches helped, while Oberacker had an RBI single. Seth Edwards had a sacrifice fly and Beech a two-run double for a 6-1 lead.

Lipscomb cut the margin to 6-3 with a pair in the fourth and added four in the fifth to pull ahead, 7-6.

Tech struck back with five in the top of the sixth on just three hits, but two were for extra bases.

With one out, Tate McMillan walked and Kirby-Jones hammered his 15th home run of the year to lift the Golden Eagles back on top, 8-7. With two out, Edwards was hit by a pitch and stole second. Burgess walked, and Guyear legged out a triple to center field. Hayes’ RBI single made it 11-7.

Lipscomb didn’t crumble, coming back with three in the bottom of the inning on just two hits pull to within 11-10.

The Golden Eagles didn’t panic, adding four runs in the eighth inning on five hits and the aid of two Lipscomb errors. Burgess and Hayes each drove runners home with singles, and Wulf doubled to score the final two runs.

Up by five, Tech saw Lipscomb load the bases in the bottom of ninth and Cory Hale blasted a home run to make it a one-run contest. That brought Pryor into the contest to snuff the Bisons’ rally.

Choate pitched the first 4 1/3 innings without a decision, allowing five runs on six hits. He was the first of five Golden Eagle pitchers.

Ryan Hopkins (3-2) got the win in relief, pitching 3 1/3 innings and allowing four runs on three hits with one walk and three strikeouts.

Lipscomb starter Blake Fonfara also headed home without a decision, working 2 1/3 innings. The Bisons used four pitchers, with Alex Ross (1-3) taking the loss after allowing five runs on four hits in 1 2/3 innings.

The two teams will tangle again Wednesday night in Cookeville. The game in Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex starts at 6 p.m., and admission is free.