May 29, 2010

Big inning, Nick Price lift Tech into OVC Championship game Sunday

View post-game interview with Bragga, Donaldson and Price

JACKSON, Tenn. – Tennessee Tech sent 13 batters to the plate in the fourth inning and scored 10 runs to erase a 5-0 deficit on the way to a 15-6 victory over Murray State Saturday afternoon in an elimination game at the 2010 Ohio Valley Conference Baseball Championship at Pringles Park.

The win sends Tech into the championship game Sunday against Jacksonville State. The two teams will tangle at noon, and a second game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. if Tech wins the noon contest in the double-elimination tourney.

The Golden Eagles are bidding to become the first time in 15 years to win back-to-back tournament titles and advance to the NCAA Tournament.

"We believe in our players, we believe in the young men that we have, we believe in our coaches and we’re a hard fighting team," Bragga said. "We realize its going to be a great challenge but it’ll be fun. We look forward to it."

Jacksonville State scored four runs in the eighth inning to beat Tech, 9-7, in the first game of the day. That put the No. 2 seed Gamecocks into the championship game and forced top-seeded Tech to play No. 3 Murray State. 

Down 5-0 after three innings, the Golden Eagles chased starter Matt McGaha (5-2) in the fourth. Tech scored 10 runs on nine hits in the inning to grab a 10-5 lead.

"It was nice to see because it showed a lot of resiliency on our guys part," Bragga said of the big inning. "Our guys are resilient and very tough and bounced back with that 10-run inning. That was fantastic. I told one of our assistant coaches that was one of the most fun innings I've ever been a part of."

Nick Price (2-0) took over the pitching duties for Tech in the bottom of the inning for starter Chason Choate and the freshman was outstanding. He worked the final six innings allowing just three hits and one run, walking two and striking out three to get the win.

"Nick played fantastic. He’s just a freshman and he’s going to be a star in this league and a star for our baseball team," Bragga said. "He’s a great guy and our guys have a lot of confidence in him. We have confidence in a lot of our guys so that was great to see Nick do that. We’re really proud of him and what a great young man he is."

Price said watching the Golden Eagles in the NCAA Regional last year helped to inspire him.

"Last year I got to sit at home and watch the regionals on TV and you know, I was proud of the guys," Price said. "I watched them do it last year and then I had to sit out most of the fall with an elbow injury, so I just worked hard and got back in, and coach and my defense and all my teammates have a lot of faith in me that I’m gonna get the job done. That’s a big confidence booster in itself.

A 10-run inning helps, too.

"Oh that felt great," Price said. "We’re not ready for this season to end, we’re not ready to go home, we just wanna keep winning and we had a huge inning. The guys got the bats rollin like we can hit and I knew that with a five-run lead, all I had to do was throw strikes. I’ve got a great defense behind me, the best fielding percentage in the OVC, so I knew all I had to do was throw strikes and they’d make the plays."

The bottom four spots in the lineup combined for 12 hits, including four hits each by Casanova Donaldson and Frankie Beech.

"That was great to see," Bragga said. "Frankie’s a really good hitter. He led the Tennessee JUCO system in hitting and he’s been on-and-off a little bit this year, and he’d be the first one to tell you that, so we knew he could do that and it was really great to see. He’s been pressing lately, trying to do too much, and I think he just kind of got into a rhythm and relaxed and had some fun. And Casanova’s just a great hitter, he can do so many things, he runs well, he bunts."

Devin Rivers
, moved into the No. 2 spot in the lineup after an injury to Tate McMillan, had three hits, and five Golden Eagles – Austin Wulf, A.J. Kirby-Jones, Chad Oberacker, Brandon Crossman and Chad Hayes – added two hits each in Tech's 22-hit attack.

Tech added two runs in the seventh and three more in the eight to build the lead to 15-5 before Murray State tacked on a single run in the eighth on a solo home run by Daniel Hill.

Jacksonville State 9, Tech 7 (first game)

Despite an early 5-2 lead, Tech saw Jacksonville State rally for four runs in the eighth inning as the Gamecocks claimed a 9-7 victory in the winner's bracket final.

Tech took a 3-0 lead in the first inning. After the Gamecocks pulled with 3-2 with two in the top of the second, Tech added two runs in the bottom of the inning for a 5-2 lead. JSU scored twice in the fifth to once again pull within one run at 5-4, then tied the contest with a single run in the sixth.

It stood tied for a couple of innings before JSU rallied for four runs on three hits in the eighth. The Golden Eagles fought back with single runs in the eighth and ninth for the final margin.

Stephen Pryor (4-4) suffered the loss in relief for Tech while JSU reliever Jordan Beistline (3-3) earned the win. Nick Hornsby got his fifth save of the year.

Sophomore catcher Ben Burgess (photo at left) was 4-for-5 with four RBI to lead the Golden Eagles. Chad Oberacker had two hits including a triple and A.J. Kirby-Jones also had two hits, both doubles. Devin Rivers hit his fourth home run of the year in going 2-for-3.

Blake Sequin, hitting ninth in the JSU lineup, was 4-for-4 while four other Gamecock hitters had two hits each.

The games Sunday against Jacksonville State can be heard live on the Golden Eagle Sports Network via either the telephone or Internet by clicking here. TTU Director of Athletics Mark Wilson will call the action along with TTU Sports Information assistant Kate Nicewicz.