By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – One day after edging Illinois State 4-3 in Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex, the Tennessee Tech baseball team saw the tides turn the other way Wednesday afternoon, as the Redbirds (5-9) defeated the Golden Eagles (12-6) by a final score of 9-2.
Illinois State struck early and never looked back, plating five runs in the first inning and three more in the second to take a commanding 8-0 lead before the Golden Eagles could provide an answer.
After being kept off the scoreboard for the first two frames, Tech snagged solo runs in the third and fourth frames behind RBI from Collin Harris and Ryan Flick. The Redbirds added a single run in the fifth for a 9-2 lead before turning the ball over to Trevor Cross, who acted as a Golden Eagle kryptonite for the next four innings.
After posting seven hits over the first four frames, the Tech offense was stymied to just one hit over the next four by Cross, who also walked two, but kept the home team off the scoreboard.
Strong relief appearances by four TTU pitchers prevented the visitors from even remotely threatening at the plate again. Sophomore Marcus Evey, seniors Brandon Smith and Evan Fraliex, and junior Max Tilton combined to hold Illinois State hitless and allow just one walk over the final four innings.
Evey took over to start the sixth, walking one and striking out one while requiring just 14 pitches to move on to the next inning. In the seventh, Brandon Smith took the hill, making exceptionally quick work of the Redbird lineup. The right-hander fanned one while using a miniscule nine pitches to quiet ISU.
Veteran arm Evan Fraliex took his turn in the eighth inning, fanning not one but two Illinois State batters while using just 11 offerings. JUCO transfer Max Tilton provide an electric ninth and final inning of relief, slinging nasty breaking stuff that forced two Redbird batters into ugly strikeout victims. The junior, who made his first appearance of the season, needed just 15 pitches to set down the side in order.
Offensively, Harris had it going for much of the day, collecting three hits in four trips to the plate, along with an RBI. Flick ripped his team and Ohio Valley Conference best 10th double of the season to left field, accounting for his RBI.
The Golden Eagles will stay in the comfort of Cookeville and Bush Stadium this weekend, playing host to OVC rival SIUE in a three-game series starting Friday, Mar. 17 at 6 p.m. CT.
Photo by Tony Marable