By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
OXFORD, Ala. – In one of the most exciting Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship games ever played, it was Morehead State (37-24) that came out on top, edging the No. 18 Tennessee Tech baseball team (48-9) at Choccolocco Park, 4-3.
Starter Devin Lancaster tossed two scoreless frames to open the contest, keeping the Morehead State offense off balance while allowing just one hit. The Eagles broke through in the third, scoring three times, including one unearned run.
Ethan Roberts took over on the hill, turning in an incredible performance out of the bullpen to give the Golden Eagle offense a chance to solve the Morehead State starter, Garret Rogers. Roberts finished off the final two outs of the third before embarking on a masterful showing over the next four frames.
The Sparta native worked out of a few jams, scattering five hits and three walks in his four and two thirds innings of work while striking out two. After the first two batters of the fifth reached, the junior forced three lazy fly balls to escape the trouble.
Tech broke through offensively in the fifth, beginning with a one-out walk to senior Collin Harris. Alex Junior followed by ripping a single up the middle to put two on for senior Trevor Putzig. The third baseman fouled off two pitches and watched one miss the zone to make it a 1-2 count.
And then, he unloaded.
Putzig absolutely crushed a game-tying, three-run home run down the left field line and into the wind, just staying inside the foul pole. The senior's 16th long ball of the year represented the team's 128th on the year, breaking the OVC's single-season mark set in 2002 by Morehead State.
Roberts took back over on the hill and struck out the first batter he saw in the sixth. After a bang-bang play at first on a bunt ended in a hit, Morehead made it two on with one out with another base hit. The Tech closer never wavered, inducing a double play ball to third base which Putzig and Ham turned beautifully with Chase Chambers at first to end the frame.
Tech turned another double play to start the seventh, with Roberts and Garza working the magic with Chambers for the two outs. The next three Morehead batters would reach to create some uncertainty, but Roberts again showed his grit, forcing a fielder's choice ground ball to shortstop to end the inning.
Senior ace Travis Moths took over on the mound in the eighth, showing incredible determination and ability after tossing seven and one third innings in Thursday's victory over Jacksonville State. He recovered from a leadoff single, forcing two ground balls and a pop up to take things to the bottom of the eighth.
In the ninth, Morehead State broke through, with OVC Tournament MVP Niko Hulsizer connecting on a 2-2 offering for a solo home run to left field. Traveling into the wind, the ball just cleared the fence over the glove of a leaping Harris to provide the final score of 4-3. Moths turned around and record three outs over the next four batters, taking things to the bottom of the ninth.
With one more attempt in the bottom half, Tech seemed to gather a huge hit as Harris blasted a ball in between shortstop and third base. Morehead third baseman Eli Boggess made an incredible diving stab to corral the ball and his throw just beat Harris to the first-base bag for the second out. The Eagles would go on to record the final out with a strikeout to clinch its second tournament title four years.
The Golden Eagles baseball team will host a viewing party for the NCAA Tournament Selection Show Monday morning, looking for a potential at-large bid into the field of 64 teams. The Tech boasts the nation's most wins, least losses, a consensus national top-25 ranking and an RPI of 20.
Doors to the viewing party, which will take place in the Eagles' Nest in the Eblen Center, will open at 10:45 a.m. CT with the show beginning at 11 a.m. on ESPNU. The event is open to the public.
2018 OVC BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIP ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Colton Pate, Jacksonville State
Taylor Hawthorne, Jacksonville State
Aaron Ochsenbein, Eastern Kentucky
Nick Howie, Eastern Kentucky
Kevin Strohschein, Tennessee Tech
Trevor Putzig, Tennessee Tech
Nick Osborne, Tennessee Tech
Travis Moths, Tennessee Tech
Dalton Stambaugh, Morehead State
Braxton Morris, Morehead State
Jake Hammon, Morehead State
Cory Conway, Morehead State
Niko Hulsizer, Morehead State (MVP)
Photo by Thomas Corhern