COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Juniors Zach Stephens and Brandon Thomasson combined for 10 RBI and senior ace Tristan Archer tossed five solid innings as the Tennessee Tech baseball team (24-10, 13-3) took down the visiting Eastern Illinois Panthers (12-19, 3-9), 20-5 Friday evening.
What appeared at first to be pitching duel between Archer and EIU starter Andrew Grahn, quickly turned into a dominating offensive performance by the Golden Eagle bats. After two scoreless innings, Tech struck gold, erupting for a season-high 20 runs and handing Grahn his second loss of the season. Archer picked up his sixth victory of the year, just one shy of his career-high seven in 2011.
The Panthers did manage five runs in the contest, with two coming off the bat of shortstop Dane Sauer. Five EIU pitchers combined to walk nine batters in the contest, giving the Golden Eagles plenty of scoring chances that the team would take advantage of.
In the bottom of the third with a scoreless game, not much looked to be going any different than the first two and half innings as catcher Jordan Parris flew out to left field. Things quickly changed as second baseman Zach Zarzour drew a four-pitch walk. Austin Wulf followed with a single through the right side and a Zach Stephens walk loaded the bases for Brandon Thomasson.
The junior slugger promptly roped a double to left field, driving in two runs and breaking the scoreless tie. Daniel Miles continued his hot start to the month of April, singling through the left side and driving in two more runs to give the Golden Eagles a 4-0 lead. Dylan Bosheers grabbed a base hit through the right side before Michael Morris drilled an RBI double down the right field line. James Abraham would finish the scoring in the inning for Tech, smacking a sac fly to the right fielder. Tech led 6-0 after three innings.
Eastern Illinois looked to make things interesting, scoring two runs in the top of the fourth to make it a 6-2 game. The Golden Eagle offense wasn't done though.
After an RBI double by Stephens in the fourth, Tech struck for five runs in the fifth, using three straight walks to load the bases. Wulf reached base on an error by the EIU first baseman, driving in a run. Stephens walked in the next at-bat, bringing home another run and setting up Thomasson with a ton of run potential.
The designated hitter delivered, hammering a single up the middle for two RBI. Another Panther error allowed the final run of the inning to score and Tech found itself up 12-2. And the team still wasn't done.
In the sixth, the Golden Eagles were at it again. Wulf singled in a run to start things off, followed quickly by a two-run double by Stephens. Thomasson had his fill again, this time launching a two-run shot over the right center field wall, the junior's ninth of the season. After six innings, Tech led 17-2. It still wasn't enough.
After the Panthers scored three runs in the seventh and eighth innings, the Golden Eagles struck one last time. Senior Evan Frazier, who pinch-hit for Thomasson, singled through the left side, later scoring on a wild pitch. After a double by Miles, Bosheers smacked a sac fly to center field, leaving the Tech squad just one run shy of 20.
Senior Zephan Guyear came through, crushing a solo home run over the left field fence to give the Golden Eagles a 20-5 win over a team that swept Tech in last season's series.
Thomasson finished the game 3-for-5, collecting six RBI. Stephens drove in four runs, scoring three more himself while gathering two hits in four at-bats. He also walked twice. Miles went 4-for-4 in the contest, driving in two runs.
Archer struck out seven batters over five innings of work, allowing just two earned runs and two walks. Andy Williams pitched the final two innings of the game, striking out three while surrendering just one walk and no hits.
The Golden Eagles and Panthers will face off in Game Two on Saturday when Cookeville native Ross Spurgeon takes on Joe Greenfield in a 2 p.m. tilt.