Starter Chason Choate tossed seven scoreless
Six Golden Eagle batters contributed home runs
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles were
teamwork personified Saturday afternoon as they trampled the Murray
State Thoroughbreds (25-26-1 overall/12-8-1 OVC), 11-1 in the
series finale to complete the end-of-season sweep and clinch the
regular-season Ohio Valley Conference Championship.
The three-game sweep marks the first time since 1997 that Tech (29-23 overall/14-6 OVC) has clinched the regular-season title outright. The Golden Eagles did it by winning 13 of their last 14 conference match-ups.
Six different Golden Eagle batters combined for six home runs on the day off of Murray's undefeated right-hander Alex Love and the rest of the bullpen. Tech was one home run away from tying the school record for home runs in a single game.
Ten of Tech's 11 runs came off of RBI homers, and the Golden Eagles put numbers on the scoreboard in every inning except their first and last innings at bat.
Sophomore catcher Ben Burgess got the Golden Eagles going in the second inning with a two-run shot, his fifth of the year. Burgess also contributed the only RBI that did not come off of a long ball with a sacrifice fly to center field in the fifth inning that scored Chad Oberacker. Oberacker singled to left field, and advanced to third on Casanova Donaldson's double down the left field line. Burgess went 2-for-3 overall, while Oberacker hit 3-for-5 on the day.
Donaldson added a solo home run in the third inning, bringing his season total to seven. Junior A.J. Kirby-Jones also launched a two-run bomb in the third, scoring freshman Austin Wulf after his first base-hit of the game and giving Tech a 5-0 lead. Saturday's 2-for-4 effort at the plate ranks Kirby-Jones second in the nation with 25 home runs on the season and brings his walks total to 55.
Junior Devin Rivers (2-for-4) worked Love for another solo shot before the Thoroughbreds brought in reliever Marc Harmon in the bottom of the fourth.
In honor of the last home game at Tech for four Golden Eagle players, senior first baseman Tate McMillan creamed a two-out RBI homer to stretch the Golden Eagle lead to eight in the bottom of the sixth, and Wulf owned the seventh inning with a two-out, three run round-tripper to make the score 11-0 in favor of the home team. Wulf's hot bat will send him to the OVC tournament with a seven-game hittting streak.
Equally as impressive as Tech's performance at the plate was the outstanding effort on the hill from southpaw starter Chason Choate. Choate held the Thoroughbreds to just two hits and two walks, fanning three batters through seven scoreless innings. His muscle on the mound earned him his third win of the year, bringing his record to 3-3 and his ERA to 5.68.
Reliever Stephen Pryor kept Murray State off the board through the eighth inning, giving up just one run on one hit in the top of the ninth. Murray's Bryan Propst doubled to left center field and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Jason Laws contributed an RBI groundout to first base to send Propst home for the Thoroughbreds' only run of the contest.
Propst went 1-for-3 on the day, earning one of Choate's two walks of the game. Zach Noonan and Cory Hodskins each added base-hits for the Thoroughbreds.
Love was charged for the loss for Murray State, giving up six runs on seven hits. Tech batters worked reliever Marc Harmon for the remaining five runs on eight hits, and earned their 16th hit of the game off of Will Handlin fresh out of the Thoroughbred bullpen.
Saturday's win secured the number one seed for the Golden Eagles in next week's OVC Championship tournament in Jackson, Tenn. Tech has earned a first-round bye and will play Thursday, May 27 at Pringles Park at 7 p.m. Admission is $10 per day or $30 for an all-session pass. The series loss for Murray State will give them the number three seed in the tournament, as Jacksonville State swept Morehead State this weekend to claim the No. 2 seed.
Fans who cannot make it to Jackson can watch the tournament at OVCsports.TV by purchasing the tournament package for $9.95.Broadcasts of the tournament games can also be heard via Free Teamline on the telephone or the Internet, with Rob Schabert calling the action.
The field for the OVC Tournament is as follows:
No. 1 - Tennessee Tech (29-23, 14-6 OVC)
No. 2 - Jacksonville State (29-24, 15-8 OVC)
No. 3 – Murray State (25-26-1, 12-8-1 OVC)
No. 4 - Southeast Missouri (30-23, 13-9 OVC
No. 5 - Eastern Illinois (17-33, 11-12 OVC)
No. 6 - Eastern Kentucky (27-25, 9-12 OVC)