By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A huge first inning and continued hitting proved to be just the ticket for the Tennessee Tech baseball team Saturday afternoon, as the Golden Eagles (32-10, 14-7) completed a three-game series sweep of Ohio Valley Conference rival Jacksonville State (21-17, 11-7) with an 11-8 victory.
Tech all but took the third contest in the series in the first inning alone, scoring seven runs with two outs off the power of six hits. Gamecock starter Taylor Shields, who was dealt his fourth loss of the season, kept all seven runs unearned after an error earlier in the frame.
Things started early as leadoff man Zach Zarzour singled down the left field line. Jordan Hopkins followed, reaching on an error by the Jax State second baseman. The Gamecocks seemed to have avoided early trouble, recording outs on the next two Tech batters, but senior Brandon Thomasson started a two-out thrashing that would not end for another eight batters.
Thomasson singled to center field, plating one to kick things off. Dylan Bosheers, Jake Rowland, and David Allen all followed suit, each recording RBI singles to move the Tech lead to 4-0. Catcher Jordan Parris drew a walk to load the bases and bring Zarzour up for his second offering of the inning.
Luck seemed to be on the side of the Golden Eagles, as Zarzour struck out swinging, but reached first base safely on a passed ball by the Gamecock catcher. The play allowed another Tech runner to score, upping the advantage to 5-0. Hopkins then finished the scoring off for the Golden Eagles, lacing a two-run single to right center field to give Tech a 7-0 lead.
Jacksonville State scored two runs in the second, off the power of a two-run home run by catcher Stephen Bartlett. But Tech quickly made up the scores, as Bosheers crushed his eighth long ball of the year clear over the wall in left center field, scoring two and propelling Tech to a 9-2 advantage.
Both pitching staffs battled well over the next five innings, as each offense was held off the scoreboard until the top of the eighth. The Gamecocks struck for a run in the frame, but the Golden Eagles answered with two of their own to lead 11-3.
The Gamecocks did make things interesting in the ninth, scoring five runs in the inning to push the Tech squad to the limit. But junior Seth Lucio finally closed the book on Tech's OVC foe, striking out the final batter of the inning on a full count and pushing the Golden Eagles to within two games of first place in the league standings.
Freshman starter Evan Fraliex earned his third victory of the year, scattering five hits over six innings of work while allowing just two earned runs and striking out two. Relievers Jeb Scoggins, Ross Spurgeon, John Gora, and Seth Lucio finished off the final three innings as Tech picked up its 32nd win of the year.
Bosheers led the Tech offense on the day, going 2-for-3 with three RBI, three runs scored, and two walks. Thomasson was close behind, grabbing hits in all three of his at bats while driving in two, scoring three runs, and also drawing two walks.
Rowland collected two RBI on the day off the power of two hits, scoring a run as well. Hopkins finished 3-for-5 at the dish, reaching base four times while driving in two runs.
The sweep was the first for the Golden Eagles of an OVC opponent this season and also marked the first over Jacksonville State since 2009 when Tech won the OVC tournament championship.
The sweep also moved Tech into second place in the league standings, ahead of Jacksonville State by one and a half games. With a loss by Southeast Missouri earlier in the day, it also put Tech just three games out of the first place Redhawks.
The Golden Eagles will head north for a single contest at nationally ranked Kentucky Tuesday evening. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. CT.