May 21, 2010

Golden Eagles sweep Murray State, can clinch title with victory Saturday

First pitch Saturday scheduled for 1 p.m. in Bush Stadium

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Just one more time.

The Tennessee Tech baseball team can clinch the Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship Saturday afternoon with just one more win. On Friday, the Golden Eagles swept a doubleheader from league-leading Murray State to move to the top of the league standings heading into the final day of the schedule.

Coming into the game in second place in the league, a game behind the Thoroughbreds, Tech claimed a 15-8 win in the opener on the strength of four home runs – two by Chad Oberacker – and capped the sweep with an 8-3 victory behind the three-hit, complete-game pitching effort from Lee Henry (pictured at right)

Freshman Austin Wulf had seven RBI, Oberacker drove in six runs and A.J. Kirby-Jones delivered four RBI as the Golden Eagles erupted for 23 hits and 23 runs in the two games.

After starting the conference schedule with five losses, the Golden Eagles have now won 13 of their last 14 OVC contests and head into Saturday's game with a 28-23 overall mark and a 13-6 league ledger.

Murray State, meanwhile, slipped to 25-25 overall and 12-7-1 in the OVC.

Either a Tech win or a loss by Jacksonville State Saturday at Morehead State will give Tech the regular season crown and the No. 1 seed in next week's OVC Tournament in Jackson, Tenn. The Golden Eagles have clinched no worse than the No. 2 seed and a bye in the first round.

While the top four spots in Tech's lineup was delivering 19 RBI, the bottom three spots in the Golden Eagle batting order combined to go 10-for-20 Friday.

Murray State was led by Bryan Probst who went 4-for-7 in the two games with three RBI. Wes Cunningham slugged two home runs in going 2-for-9, and also drove in three runs.

In the opener, lefty Adam Liberatore (6-4) picked up the win after tossing seven innings. He allowed 11 hits and five runs, walked two and struck out seven. Oberacker pitched the final two innings, giving up a couple hits, three walks and three runs.

Tech erupted for seven runs in the second inning off MSU starter Chris Craycraft (6-4) with a two-out rally, taking advantage  of some control problems by the senior as he walked four. With two outs, Devin Rivers started the rally with a single, followed by walks to Chad Hayes and Frankie Beech at the bottom of the order.

Leadoff hitter Austin Wulf (pictured at left) singled to right to plate the first two runs, and Tate McMillan also drew a walk before Kirby-Jones ripped a two-run single up the middle to make it 4-1. Oberacker smashed an 0-1 pitch out of the park for three more runs and a 7-1 lead.

The Thoroughbreds scored single runs in the second and fourth. The first came on a wild pitch, and the second on an RBI single by Jonathan Craycraft to make it 7-2.

The Golden Eagles answered with five runs in the bottom of the fourth to extend their lead to 12-2, including back-to-back solo home runs by Kirby-Jones and Oberacker. That chased Craycraft and brought in Dan Huff in relief for MSU. Tech added three more runs, the first on a bases loaded, two-out single by Beech and the other s on a two-run single by Wulf.

Murray State scored three in the top of the fifth to slice the lead to 12-5. The first two runs trotted across the plate on Cunningham's 19th home run of the season. Elliott singled with one out and Cunningham knocked the first pitch over the right field fence. Probst made it back-to-back homers with a solo shot to make it 12-5.

Tech added single runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings to extend its lead to 15-5 before MSU tallied three in the ninth. The runs came on a hit batter, a fielder's choice and a walk, before Oberacker got the final out and left the bases loaded.

Craycraft worked 3 1/3 innings, allowing nine runs on seven hits. He walked four and struck out one. Huff yielded six runs on nine hits during his 4 2/3 innings on the hill, walking two and fanning one.

Oberacker drove in five runs in the opener, Wulf had four RBI and Rivers went 4-for-5.

Cunningham opened the second game with a solo home run, his second of the day, off Henry to stake Murray State to a quick 1-0 lead, but the Golden Eagles came right back with two runs in the bottom of the frame without a hit. Two walks and a hit batter set the stage for Kirby-Jones and Oberacker to each drive home runs with infield ground outs.

The Golden Eagles made it 5-1 with three in the second inning. Ben Burgess legged out an infield single and Hayes reached on a throwing error that placed runners at the corners. A walk to Beech loaded thebases and brought in Matt McGaha for starter Jake Donze.

Wulf laced his first pitch through the middle for two runs and McMillan hit a sacrifice fly for the third run.

Burgess hit a solo home run in the third to make it 6-1, and Probst homered in the MSU half of the fourth to make it 6-2.

Cory Hodskins walked, stole second and moved to third on a fly ball in the top of the sixth, then came on an RBI single from Probst that pulled the Thoroughbreads within 6-3.

Hayes and Wulf both doubled to produce one run in Tech's half of the sixth, then McMillan singled to make it 8-3.

Henry (6-3) tossed his third complete game of the season, working all seven innings and allowing just three hits. He walked one and struck out six.

Donze (5-6) took the loss, pitching one innig and allowing five runs on only one hit. He walked three. McGaha logged five innings, allowing six hits and three runs. He didn't walk a batter and struck out five.

Saturday's game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. Pregame festivities begin at 12:45 p.m., and include Senior Day recognition of Tate McMillan, Brandon Crossman, Adam Liberatore and Lee Henry. Baseball Alumni Day follows with a special tribute to former coach David Mays.

Admission is free.