By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – For just the second time in the 2017 campaign, the Tennessee Tech baseball team lost an Ohio Valley Conference series, as the Golden Eagles (36-19, 22-7) fell to Morehead State (34-20, 18-10) Friday evening, 6-3.
The Eagles jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, one that would prove to hold throughout the remainder of the contest. With two outs, the visitors snagged a single and back-to-back doubles to plate their first two runs of the contest.
After a hit-by-pitch put runners on first and second, a single and throwing error allowed two more runs two cross the plate, one of which would go down unearned.
The Golden Eagles were quick to respond, with sophomore center fielder Alex Junior leading off the bottom half with a triple to right center field. Two pitches later, shortstop David Garza drove him in, lacing a double off the wall in left center field.
A single to left field by designated hitter Ryan Flick looked like it may bring in another run for the Golden Eagles, but a fantastic throw from Morehead State left fielder Niko Hulsizer bounced in just in time to cut down Garza at the plate. After a single by first baseman Chase Chambers, sophomore right fielder Kevin Strohschein ripped an RBI single to left field to cut the deficit to just two.
The Morehead State pitching staff came up clutch from that point on, allowing the Golden Eagles to total 10 more hits, but score just one more time. The visitors used a healthy combination of timely strikeouts and key defensive plays to stymie the Tech offense in scoring situations.
The Eagles collected single runs in the fourth and fifth to up the advantage to five runs, while the pitching staff kept the Golden Eagles at bay. Tech refused to go quietly, however, making things interesting in the bottom of the ninth inning.
With two outs, Strohschein hammered a ball that cleared the fence in left center field, the slugger's 12th home run of the year. Senior second baseman Matt Jones followed with an 0-2 single to third base, brining senior catcher Chris Brown to the plate. On a 3-1 count, Brown just got under a pitch for a mammoth fly ball to right center field that fell just short of the warning track for the final out.
Sophomores Ty King and Marcus Evey and senior Brandon Smith performed spectacularly on the mound in relief, combining to wrap up the final seven and two thirds innings of the game. King tossed two and two thirds, scattering four hits and walk while allowing just a single, unearned run. He also punched out three batters.
Evey completed two innings with two strikeouts and a single earned run allowed. Smith turned in his best outing of the season, facing just nine batters and retiring them all on 34 pitches with two strikeouts.
At the end of the night, Strohschein led the Golden Eagles attack with a 3-for-5 showing at the dish and two RBI. Chambers tallied multiple hits, as did Junior, Jones, Brown and junior left fielder Collin Harris.
One day after the 2017 Tech squad broke the program record for strikeouts by a pitching staff (now over 500 and counting), the team set another standard in the record books, breaking the mark for extra base hits with a new mark of 226. The team also tied the school record for home runs in a season with Strohschein's blast, the team's 83rd of the year.
Saturday's series finale will represent Tech's Senior Day contest, with a special ceremony taking place just prior to first pitch that will honor 10 individual members of the Golden Eagle baseball program. Game time is currently set for a 1 p.m. start.
Photo by Tony Marable