By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It's time to keep the momentum moving forward for the Tennessee Tech baseball team as the Golden Eagles get their first taste of in-state action with a single contest against the Lipscomb Bisons Tuesday afternoon.
Tech, which sits 7-1 on the season, is fresh off a 5-0 week after defeating in-state rival Middle Tennessee last Tuesday and sweeping NYIT in a four-game set over the weekend. They will play host to the Bisons in a 12 p.m. contest at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex.
Lipscomb enters with a 1-6 record to start the year, grabbing its first win of the season over Dayton on Saturday. The Bisons have fought hard through a tough early schedule, facing a potent Evansville team in a three-game set to start the year, followed by a match-up with nationally ranked Vanderbilt last Wednesday. They also played Indiana State and Miami (OH), as well as Dayton, over the weekend.
TENNESSEE TECH (7-1) vs. LIPSCOMB (1-6)
Tuesday, Feb. 25
Bush Stadium (1,100) – Cookeville, Tenn.
FOLLOWING THE ACTION
Live Stats: ttusports.com
SETTING THE STAGE This in-state rivalry has featured over 65 meetings over the years and the Golden Eagles have emerged victorious more often than not, leading the series 38-28 all-time.
Last season the two squads split a home-and-home with each defending its home ballpark successfully. In just their fourth game of the year, the Golden Eagles fell in Nashville, 12-1, as the Bisons hit it hard and early. Tech got the last laugh, defeating Lipscomb in Cookeville late in the year, 10-9.
The teams went their separate ways after the first meeting last year. Tech won a program-record 40 games on its way to an Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship and league-record 24 conference victories. The Golden Eagles also returned the core of its players from last season's team.
Lipscomb turned in a 25-34 record while falling just under the .500 mark in Atlantic Sun Conference play. The Bisons finished sixth in the A-Sun with a 13-14 mark and lost exactly half of its letterwinners from a year ago.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET
There aren't many things that the Tennessee Tech baseball team doesn't know how to do. The Golden Eagles can hit, they can pitch, and they play defense with the best of them. It seems these days the only thing they don't know how do to is give up. And that was proven once again Tuesday evening.
Trailing by three runs heading to the bottom of the eighth inning, the Golden Eagles did what they have done when faced with adversity most of the season. They rallied, scoring four runs to cap a 10-9, come-from-behind victory over in-state rival Lipscomb.
After defeating Tech 12-1 in Nashville in the fourth game of the season, Lipscomb looked like they hadn't missed a beat, scoring four runs on three home runs in the second inning. They extended their lead to 5-0 heading to the bottom of the third.
Tech wouldn't give up, however, collecting two runs in the bottom of the third off a double down the left field line by senior outfielder Austin Wulf. They added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning as well. Dylan Bosheers led off the inning with single to left center field. Senior outfielder Michael Morris followed, hammering his first home run of the season over the fence in right center field to cut the lead to 5-4.
With one out in the top of the fifth and the bases loaded, Lipscomb looked sure to extend its lead. That's when senior catcher Evan Frazier made the defensive play of the game. Bison batter Zach Lowery punched a little dribbler to pitcher Nick Price. Price tossed the ball to Frazier at first to get out number two. Frazier then immediately fired the ball down the third base line to Daniel Miles to catch the Lipscomb runner who rounded third a bit too far for an inning-ending double play.
In the bottom of the sixth, Tech pulled even as senior outfielder James Abraham crushed his first dinger of the year, a solo shot to left center field.
The Bisons collected three more runs in the seventh inning, taking an 8-5 lead while looking to keep the Golden Eagles down and out.
Once again, Tech wouldn't give in, as junior slugger Zach Stephens ripped an RBI single to left field to bring the Golden Eagles within two.
In the top of the eighth inning, Lipscomb looked to land its knockout puch, scoring a run to retake its three run lead and end all hope of a comeback by Tech.
That's when the Golden Eagles truly displayed their toughness and moxy.
In the bottom of the eighth, Lipscomb forced a double play after walking Dylan Bosheers to start the inning. With two outs, surely the Golden Eagles were done for.
Or not. Morris drew a seven pitch walk and Frazier followed by getting hit by a pitch. Both players advanced on a wild pitch and suddenly the Golden Eagles were showing signs of life with runners on second and third.
After getting down 1-2 in the count, second baseman Zach Zarzour punched in a clutch hit, drilling a shot off a lunging Lipscomb shortstop that drove in both Frazier and Morris to bring Tech within one run. Wulf followed right way, lacing a groundball that hopped over a leaping jump by the Bisons first baseman, and sliding safely into second with a double to put runners at second and third.
At this point, it just seemed like destiny that the comeback would be complete. Stephens fell behind in the count 1-2, but even then there was a sense that something great was about to happen as he stepped into the batters box. And then it happened. Stephens drilled a single through the left side of the infield, driving in both runners and giving Tech a 10-9 lead.
From that point, it was just recording three outs and Tech would have its 37th win of the year. Sophomore closer Seth Lucio came in and recorded two quick outs. Lipscomb showed some fight, collecting two hits before Lucio finished it off with a strikeout to earn his 11th save of the season.
Sophomore reliever Byron Skinner earned his first win of the season, tossing 1.2 innings while surrendering just one run. Stephens led the Tech offense with three RBI on 2-for-4 hitting. Morris, Zarzour, and Wulf each recorded two hits and two RBI apiece.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR • The Golden Eagles enter the contest against Lipscomb on a six-game winning streak after sweeping NYIT over the weekend in a four-game series. Over the weekend, Tech outscored the Bears 55-7, as every starting position player recorded at least two RBI, five runs scored, and a batting average of .316 or better.
• Dylan Bosheers leads the Tech squad offensively through the first two weeks of the year, batting .441 with 15 hits and 13 runs scored. He has clobbered five extra-base hits and is slugging .618 with a .525 on-base percentage. He also is tied for the team-lead in stolen bases, converting on both of his attempts so far this season.
• Third baseman Daniel Miles put together an award-winning week, garnering adidas OVC Player of the Week honors after leading the Golden Eagles to 5-0 record. The senior recorded 11 RBI, including a TTU single-game record eight against NYIT on Saturday in the second game of a double header, smacking two home runs and a double in the contest. He is batting .438, slugging .688, and has an on-base percentage of .550.
• Senior Brandon Thomasson had a huge week at the dish as well, crushing three home runs in five games while driving in 10 runners. He ranks second in the league in long balls and leads the Golden Eagles with a .793 slugging percentage. He just missed hitting for the cycle in the first game against NYIT, falling a single short.
• With a high of 50° expected Tuesday afternoon, fans can plan to dress for a great day at the ballpark. At worst the skies will be partly cloudy with the sun expected to be out most of the day with little to no wind.
Here's a look at the pitching match-ups between Tech and South Alabama: