By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information Coordinator
JACKSON, Tenn. – Despite a dramatic, fifth-inning comeback behind one of the most impressive displays of resiliency by the Tennessee Tech baseball team to date, Jacksonville State managed to keep itself alive in the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament one more time as the Gamecocks defeated the Golden Eagles, 10-7, Saturday afternoon.
Tech will get a second chance at the OVC Tournament title tomorrow in a 12 p.m. CT contest at The Ballpark at Jackson. Fans can once again follow the action live on the OVC Digital Network and also listen to Dylan Vazzano call the game on FM 106.1 The Eagle.
After losing its first contest of the tournament, Jacksonville State has turned into the hottest team in the league if not the entire nation, winning its fifth straight elimination game with the victory over Tech. The Gamecocks entered the game having already played earlier in the day, eliminating No. 1 seeded Southeast Missouri. Jax State was forced to play a doubleheader the day before as well, becoming the first team in the current OVC Tournament format (started in 2005) to even make it to a championship game.
The Gamecocks used that momentum to their advantage early, striking for a run right off the bat, scoring one in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. By the midway point of the game, that lead had expanded to 6-0, as the Jax State offense clicked while starter Taylor Shields held the mighty Tech offense to just one hit heading into the bottom of the fifth.
Enter newly appointed rally man Tyler Brazelton. Following a leadoff hit-by-pitch by Jake Rowland, subsequent single by Jake Rowland, and sacrifice fly by Anthony El Chibani, the 5-foot-6 redshirt freshman stepped up to the plate with just one thing on his mind. Change the outlook of the game.
And that's just what the designated hitter from Huntsville, Ala. did. With a 6-1 deficit staring him in the face, Brazelton destroyed a 1-0 pitch over the 24-foot wall in left field, cutting the Gamecocks' lead to 6-3 and giving the Golden Eagles an energy unlike any before. The two-run shot, which cleared a wall over four times the size of the shortest player in the OVC Tournament field, marked the second of his young career.
Senior second baseman Zach Zarzour kept that energy going with a double down the third base line. With a championship on his mind, senior slugger Zach Stephens took his turn at the plate. Despite battling flu-like symptoms, the first baseman fought hard to a seven-pitch full count. He then took the next offering to another area code, torching a two-run home run to the deepest part of the ballpark, over 415 feet to left center field.
Just like that Tech had trimmed the Jax State lead from six to one. And the Golden Eagles still weren't done. Determined to keep the inning alive after the Gamecocks recorded a second out, senior right fielder Brandon Thomasson reached on an error by third baseman Ryan Sebra.
Tech called on junior Dylan Bosheers for one more shot of heroics and the Dick Howser Trophy finalist and Brooks Wallace Award Watch List member came through. The shortstop hammered a two-run bomb clear over the massive wall in left field, giving the Golden Eagles their first lead of the contest, 7-6.
The Jax State bats just couldn't let it be that easy for the Tech squad, however, as the Gamecocks used the next four innings to tally four runs and eventually grab the 10-7 victory.
Leading the Gamecocks offensively was outfielder Griff Gordon, who tallied two hits and two RBI. Seven other Jax State batters drove in a run, proving that the entire team, top to bottom, was still hot.
Sebra, who came on for two and two thirds innings of relief picked up his second victory of the year after holding the Tech bats to two hits and two walks. Travis Stout, the lone reliever on the All-OVC First Team, collected his league leading 13th save, his second of the day, after delivering the final four outs.
Stephens, Bosheers, and Brazelton all tallied two RIB apiece while Thomasson and Jordan Hopkins each finished with multi-hit contests. Stephens tied his own single-season personal best of 18 long balls while Bosheers continued to annihilate his own personal record for moonshots, clubbing his 11th of the year.
In the game, Stephens broke his third OVC career record of the season, becoming the all-time leader in total bases with a mark of 524.