By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It took more than five innings, but the offense showed up with perfect timing for the Tennessee Tech baseball team Saturday afternoon as the Golden Eagles (14-6, 5-0) rallied from a four-run deficit at Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex to clinch their Ohio Valley Conference series against SIUE (10-8, 2-3).
The visiting Cougars took an early 3-0 advantage in the top of the second frame after stranding the bases loaded in the first. SIUE then added to the lead with a solo run in the top of the third frame, sporting a 4-0 advantaged through the first five innings.
On the flip side, the Golden Eagle offense was slow to get started, being held to just one hit through the opening five frames. But like the flip of a switch, the Tech bats came alive in the bottom of the sixth.
Sophomore Alex Junior led off the frame by working a seven-pitch walk before advancing on a ground out to second base. Another walk to fellow sophomore Kevin Strohschein gave Tech two baserunners for slugger Ryan Flick's turn with the bat.
The junior designated hitter came through, ripping an RBI single to left center field for the first Tech run of the game. SIUE then turned to its bullpen, hoping to quiet any potential rally in the inning by the home team.
That hope was short-lived, despite a quick second out. Senior Chris Brown saw nine pitches before taking a free pass to load the bases, brining junior outfielder Collin Harris to the dish with a chance to do some real damage to the scoreboard.
Harris watched two strikes called before bravely taking ball one. After fighting off the next offering, the left fielder watched two more pitches miss their marks, setting up a crucial full-count scenario with two outs and bases juiced. Harris pulverized the do-or-die offering, banging a bases-clearing triple off the wall in right field to knot the game at 4-4.
SIUE had an answer for Harris' heroics, plating two in the top of the seventh to retake the lead at 6-4. It was a short-lived advantage for the visitors, as Junior got things started for the Golden Eagles once again in the seventh, singling through the right side to lead off the frame.
Junior Trevor Putzig followed with a single of his own through the left side, giving Strohschein the opportunity to do some work on the scoreboard. The reigning OVC Rookie and Player of the Year delivered an RBI single to left field, driving in Junior to cut the SIUE lead to one.
Flick followed with a game-tying base knock up the middle that allowed Strohschein to advance to third. A wild pitch proved to be the ultimate detriment, as Strohschein dented home plate for the go-ahead marker. Still, Tech had one more run to drive in, as Brown ripped an RBI single up the middle.
The Golden Eagles gathered three insurance runs in the eighth, starting with an RBI double off the bat of Strohschein. Brown later smacked his first triple of the season to drive in the other two runs for the Golden Eagles, providing a strong 11-6 advantage headed to the final half inning.
The Cougars managed a lead-off home run to show a threat, but right handed reliever Travis Moths closed out the frame, his second straight inning of work, to garner his first save of the season. He punctuated the outing with a game-ending strikeout.
Brown and Harris led Tech offensively in the contest, each compiling three RBI with Brown posting a 2-for-3 day with two walks and a run scored. Harris tallied two hits in the outing while both players tripled.
Putzig, Strohschein and Flick each also posted multiple hits on the day, with the latter two driving in two runs apiece.
Starter Jake Usher struck out eight batters in five innings on the hill while allowing four earned runs. He received a no decision while reliever Nick Osborne garnered his first win of the year with two innings on the mound.
The Golden Eagles will look to remain undefeated in league play with a clean sweep of SIUE with the third game of the series set to kick off at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday.
Photo by Tony Marable