By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Ohio Valley Conference regular season champions. Is there a better way to summarize the 2013 Tennessee Tech baseball team? I think not. The Golden Eagles (39-14, 24-5), behind a relentless offensive attack and clutch pitching, can now hold that title proudly after dismantling Belmont (36-18, 21-8), 14-6, Friday afternoon in a damp Bush Stadium.
With one of their most complete games played to date, the Golden Eagles covered several milestones. Tech won its eighth regular season title, tied the school record for wins in a season (39), and broke the OVC record for league wins in a season (24).
As it has been on so many occasions, the championship-clinching victory came behind a total team effort as eight different Golden Eagles combined for 14 runs on 15 hits. Tech used a great pitch-by-committee approach, as five different pitchers combined for 13 strikeouts.
The OVC champs did the same thing they have done so often this season, grabbing an early lead behind an offensive onslaught. In the the bottom of the first inning, lead-off man Zach Zarzour singled to left field on the second pitch of the game, setting the tone early for the Golden Eagle attack.
Belmont managed to record an out before walking Zach Stephens on five pitches. Brandon Thomasson followed, also garnering a walk to load the bases for Daniel Miles, who smacked a grand slam the night before in the same situation. All it took was one pitch and Miles had the Bruin bench thinking deja vu, as the junior slugger ripped a line drive grand salami down the left field line, giving the Golden Eagles a huge 4-0 lead right off the bat (pun intended).
The Bruins attempted to make a game of it in the second inning, collecting their own three-run home run by Jamie Ritchie to make it a one-run contest. It was the closest they came the rest of the night.
In the second inning, Tech expanded its lead to two runs, scoring on one of Belmont's four errors of the day.
The Tech kitchen really got to cooking in the bottom of the third. Ten Golden Eagle batters came to the plate, beginning with -- you guessed it -- Daniel Miles. The third baseman led things off with a single to center field, followed by an RBI double by shortstop Dylan Bosheers. Senior James Abraham drove Bosheers in, tapping a single to right center field.
Outfielder Michael Morris came to the plate next, laying down a perfect drag bunt to third base and beating the throw to put runners at first and second with no outs. Catcher Jordan Parris tried to mimic Morris, also laying down a bunt, only he reached on a throwing error.
Zarzour stepped in with the bases juiced, driving a sacrifice fly to right field that scored Abraham. Senior Austin Wulf cleared the bases with a two-run double to right center field. Stephens finished off the scoring for the inning, cranking his own double to center field, scoring Wulf and giving Tech an insurmountable 11-3 lead.
The offense still wasn't done. In the fourth inning, Bosheers singled to open and was driven home two pitches later by a double to right center field by Abraham. Tech scored once more in the half inning, using a ground ball fielder's choice by Zarzour to extend the lead to 13-3.
Belmont managed to scrape three more runs across in the game while Tech put up one more on a sac fly by Bosheers. After all the mayhem, the Tech offense reigned victorious with a 14-6 advantage over the best pitching team in the OVC.
The pitching staff did more than their fare share of work in the game, striking out 13 Belmont batters and protecting the large lead for seven innings. Senior Nick Price (6-1) pitched 3.1 huge innings of relief, allowing just two hits and one unearned run. He struck out a game-high four batters as well. Garrett Baugh also was a key player in relief, throwing 1.2 scoreless innings while scattering three hits, allowing no runs, and striking out three Bruin batters. Closer Seth Lucio came in for the final inning of work, striking out three of the four batters he faced to clinch the championship and spark a massive dog pile as the team celebrated the culmination of one of the best regular seasons in program history.
The title marks the third overall for head coach Matt Bragga as well as his second regular season championship.
The Golden Eagles clinched the number one overall seed for the OVC tournament as well, which begins next Wednesday in Jackson, Tenn. Tech will receive a first round bye and play the lowest seed remaining on Thursday, May 23.
The 2013 squad will look to become the first 40-win team in program history Saturday afternoon, wrapping up the regular season with the series finale against Belmont. The contest marks both Legends Day and Senior Day as both the seniors and alums of the Golden Eagle program will be honored. First-pitch has been moved from its originally scheduled 2 p.m. CDT start to a noon start to try and beat impending weather.
Fans are encouraged to come out and celebrate with the Tech team as the nine senior members play their final contest at Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex. For those who can't make it to the game, follow all the action either via live stats here or the on the OVC Digital Network here.