COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - A career performance on the mound and some late game heroics were dead on target Thursday night as the Tennessee Tech baseball team (20-6, 9-1) won its Division I-leading 13th consecutive game in walk-off fashion over the visiting SIUE Cougars (6-14, 4-6), 1-0.
In the purest sense of the term, the contest was a pitcher's duel as senior Golden Eagle Tristan Archer (5-1) and junior Cougar Travis Felax (2-3) went pitch-for-pitch most of the evening in the first of a three-game Ohio Valley Conference series.
Archer, who threw the first complete game shutout of his career, struck out eight batters on the evening, allowing just four hits and two walks in nine innings of work. Felax pitched eight innings of shutout ball, also allowing only four hits and two walks with five strikeouts.
With the score knotted at 0-0 heading to the bottom of the ninth, junior Daniel Miles and senior Zephan Guyear became instant heroes, combining for the game-winning run. Miles drove in Guyear from second base with a one-out single up the middle to keep the Golden Eagle streak alive and extend Tech's best start in program history going.
Most, if not all, of the action in the game occurred over the last two innings. Both teams made strong contact with the ball all game, however solid defense and resilient pitching made for the scoreless contest entering the eighth.
With two quick outs, SIU Edwardsville looked sure to be headed towards its final inning without any kind of threat to show for it. The team hadn't even reached second base in the contest yet. But then catcher Denton Reed drew a walk. And then center fielder Travis Becherer singled through the left side and suddenly, things looked promising for the Cougars.
A wily veteran, Archer stood strong, forcing the next batter to ground out to second for the third out of the inning and end SIUE's most promising chance at the scoreboard to that point in the contest.
Three quick outs the other way and the Cougars suddenly had gained a little momentum. Archer worked a full count to third baseman Matt Highland before forcing him to fly out to center field. One out down. Then the scare. Down in the count 1-2, first baseman Joel Greatting drilled a double into the left center field gap. With just one out, SIUE was sure to have a great scoring opportunity on the fatiguing Archer.
But Greatting kept running, trying to extend the double into a triple and put the Cougars that much closer to the go-ahead run. A solid throw from Tech left fielder James Abraham to shortstop Dylan Bosheers made it possible. And then a great throw from Bosheers to Miles made it happen. Miles applied the tag, barely beating the sliding Greatting at third base to record a massive second out.
The senior right hander knew it was all over from that point. Archer dug deep and struck out the next batter to give the Golden Eagles a chance at their third walk-off win of the season.
Ssurprisingly, SIUE elected to relieve Travis Felax in favor of Jake Stauffenberg to begin the bottom of the ninth. It seemed to be the right choice as the Cougar reliever forced the first Tech batter to pop out to shortstop. But then things started to get hairy. Stauffenberg walked Zach Stephens on five pitches, never really coming close to challenging the slugger. He then performed a balk, allowing Stephens to advance to second base and put the game-winning run in scoring position.
Guyear entered the game as a pinch runner for Stephens, looking as focused as ever. With junior slugger Brandon Thomasson up to bat and first base wide open, Stauffenberg went with the intentional walk, not allowing the designated hitter to even attempt at a pitch.
Miles stepped in. He took ball one. Then ball two. Then a strike looking. And just when you thought this game might go extras, Miles delivered, hammering a single up the middle. Guyear came galloping around third and despite a very impressive throw from SIUE's Becherer, he slid in safe, scoring the winning run for the Golden Eagles and forcing the crowd into a frenzy of joy and excitement.
The win marked the fifth in a row for Archer as the senior has not dropped a decision since the season opener against Illinois.
Despite developing a fever during the game, Guyear came up clutch, providing excellent base running to score the winning run. Daniel Miles , who was the lone player in the game to record multiple hits, recorded his first walk-off hit of his Golden Eagle career.
With the win, the Golden Eagles extended the nation's longest winning streak to 13, just one win shy of the program single-season record of 14. The 1955 team began its season 14-0 before suffering its first loss. Tech also kept its best start to a conference season going, collecting its ninth win in OVC play.
Game two of the series will kick off at 6 p.m. CDT on Friday as TTU senior Nick Price (4-1) will look to keep the streak alive against SIUE freshman P.J. Schuster (1-3).