JACKSON, Tenn. – Lee Henry was absolutely determined to
finish what he started.
Even as his pitch count soared past 150, the Tennessee Tech senior
was not gong to be denied reaching the finish line. Even after
Eastern Kentucky had rallied to tie the game in the top of the
seventh, the Ohio Valley Conference Pitcher of the Year looked to
his teammates to pull him through.
The Golden Eagles scored three in the bottom of the seventh and
Henry tossed a complete-game, five-hitter to lead Tech to a 7-4
victory Thursday night (and early Friday morning) in the 2010 OVC
Baseball Tournament at Pringles Park in Jackson, Tenn.
Even after EKU put two runners aboard in the ninth, Henry never
considered coming out of the game.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I've been in
situations like that all my career. I know that's what you
have to do, you've got to get going, get through adversity,
you've got to push through and do your stuff and that's
what I do.”
The No. 1 seeded Golden Eagles (30-23) advance to the
winner's bracket final to play second-seeded Jacksonville
State Friday at 7 p.m. Winning the opening game was crucial,
according to Tech coach Matt Bragga.
“It's important, no question about that,”
Bragga said. “Any time you play in a tournament you want to
win that first game. We came out and played a little flat tonight,
but old Lee Henry, boy he's a competitor and he did a great
job and then offensively, we got some clutch hitting when we needed
Winners of five consecutive tournament games, the Golden Eagles
are bidding to become the first team to win back-to-back OVC
Tournament titles since 1995. The defending tourney champs, Tech
won four games last year to advance to the NCAA Regional.
Bragga's team is now just two wins from doing it again,
but the first win took some dramatic turns.
“I think our guys just gutted it out,” Bragga said.
“EKU hung in there. They had a long day. They played at 9
this morning and had a ninth-inning win, and for them to get down
4-0 and fight back like that, well that is impressive. I mean they
really worked hard.
“But then for our guys to answer, with three runs in the
seventh was great,” he said. “I think our guys gutted
it out and we competed well and did what we had to do.”
His drive into the power alley in right center field scored
Kirby-Jones and Oberacker, putting Tech on top 6-4.
Henry, who entered the game with the lowest ERA in the OVC at
2.77, saw that drop to 2.68 after allowing just two earned runs in
nine innings of work. He scattered five hits, walked four and
struck out eight in claiming his sixth consecutive win to improve
“That's what I came out here to do,” Henry
said. “I just wanted to come out here and work and give our
team the best opportunity to win. That's what I do. I'm
a competitor. I go out there to win and try to do my best and give
my all for Tennessee Tech.”
Despite waiting nearly three extra hours to start their first
tourney game, the Golden Eagles looked sharp in jumping to a 2-0
lead in the first inning.
A light malfunction at the stadium on Wednesday forced the league
to move the second game of the opening day to Thursday morning.
That pushed the three Thursday games back, and two extra inning
contests wreaked even more havoc on the schedule.
Henry threw the game's first pitch at 9:58 p.m. He notched
his eighth srikeout to end the game at 12:48 a.m. on Friday.
Kirby-Jones, an All-America candidate who was the MVP of last
year's OVC Tournament, cranked his 25th home run
of the season to ignite Tech's offense. It came on a
two-strike pitch with two outs in the bottom of the first off EKU
starter Paul Duncan (5-5).
Oberacker, ranked fourth in the nation with a .455 batting
average, followed with a base hit and rounded the bags quickly to
score on a double to right field by Burgess to make it a 2-0
The Golden Eagles tacked on single runs in the third and fourth
innings to build the lead to 4-0. Burgess got his second RBI in the
third and Chad Oberacker's school-record 29th
double of the season plated the fourth run.
Henry held Eastern Kentucky scoreless through the first four
innings before the Colonels scored an unearned run in the top of
the fifth to make it 4-1.
Ryan Faidley clocked a solo home run in the top of the sixth,
his 12th of the year, to close the gap to 4-2.
Duncan settled down and kept his team in the game by holding Tech
scoreless through the fifth and sixth innings.
In the EKU seventh, Henry walked catcher Joey Stevens and Dustin
Dunlop poked a base hit to center field. A sacrifice bunt advanced
the runners into scoring position and a sacrifice fly scored
Stevens to bring EKU within one. The second unearned run of the
game trotted home on a Tech fielding error to tie the game at
As the clock ticket past midnight, the new day brought new
momentum for the Golden Eagles in the bottom of the seventh.
Kirby-Jones, Oberacker and Burgess each punched a base hit to load
the bases, the third hit of the contest for each. That signaled the
end of the line for Duncan after 130 pitches, bringing right-hander
Matt Harris on in relief.
Rivers greeted him by cranking the crucial two-run double, giving
Tech the 6-4 lead. Austin Wulf, who stretched his hitting streak to
eight games by going 2-for-4, added an RBI infield single to score
Burgess with the final run.
Duncan was charged with the loss for EKU, working 6 1/3 innings
and allowing all seven runs on 11 hits He walked two and struck out
six. Harris went 2/3 of an inning, allowing two hits and one walk
before Austin Rexroat pitched a perfect eighth inning.
Friday's came will be broadcast on the Golden Eagle Sports
Network via Free Teamline, and can be heard on the telephone or the