By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A late rally fell short for the Tennessee Tech baseball team Friday night. The Golden Eagles fell to SIUE in their Ohio Valley Conference opener at Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex, 9-8, gathering some tough luck in the contest.
Leading 4-2 in the fourth, SIUE made it a 5-2 advantage with two outs after Garrett Carmichael sent a fly ball to deep center field. With rain in the Cookeville area all night, including much of the first four innings of the contest, Tech center fielder Kevin Strohschein slipped and fell right as he attempted to make the catch.
Carmichael finished at third base with a triple. The Cougars next batter, Brady Bunten, got just enough of a 2-1 offering to send it over the fence in right field for a 7-2 lead.
Tech answered with a pair in the bottom half and scored twice more in the sixth to cut the deficit to just one, but SIUE was finished. The Cougars plated two, pivotal runs in the eighth, increasing the lead to 9-6.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Tech kicked off a comeback bid, with Strohschein lacing a double down the right field line. After SIUE recorded the second out of the inning, sophomore slugger Jason Hinchman put everyone on alert. The first baseman hammered a rainbow of a shot that bounced off the top of the fence in right center field and over for a two-run home run to cut the deficit back down to one.
Nathan McMeans drew a walk on a full count, putting the winning run at the plate in the form of freshman John Dyer. Having already delivered earlier in the contest with a two-run double and two-run long ball, the first of his collegiate career, Dyer tried to play hero one more time for the Golden Eagles. The rookie fouled off a 2-1 offering before swinging and missing at the final pitch of the contest.
"We just didn't play well enough to win, bottom line," Tech head coach Justin Holmes said. "We punched out way too many times. I think we punched out 16 times and they punched out 16 times. There were 32 punch outs in the game. That's an ugly game."
Golden Eagle starter Caleb Morgan tallied six of the team's 16 strike outs, but it was junior southpaw Nic Dye who jumped out on the box score, striking out eight SIUE batters in just three and two thirds innings on the hill. He surrendered two earned runs late, but fanned six of the first seven batters he faced after entering the game in the fifth.
"Of course, it didn't stop the offense, which came by home runs," Holmes continued about number of strikeouts. "You strike with three home runs. They run into three home runs, and they had six coming in on the whole year. It happens."
Joining Dyer and Hinchman in the four-bagger club was freshman Jason Hogan. The rookie smashed his second dinger of the season, a two run blast, off the batter's eye in center field in the sixth inning.
"There were some positives," Holmes said of the night. "John Dyer really stepped up for us and kept us in the game early. I thought Nic Dye was tremendous. I didn't think Caleb Morgan was that bad. Just two balls got up in the air and he was a victim to that play where Kevin [Strohschein] just slipped and fell where the conditions out there are bad. And then the next guy hits one off the right field net. But that's part of the game.
"I'm obviously disappointed to lose, but we have an opportunity to win the series on Saturday or Sunday, whenever we play. You just have to move forward and if you take those two games and win the series, then you live with it. That's the goal. We just want to win the series."
The Golden Eagles and Cougars are scheduled to continue the series with a contest at 2 p.m. CT on Saturday and wrap things up with a 1 p.m. tilt on Sunday. With more inclement weather, including thunder storms, possible and expected in the Cookeville area, the teams will evaluate the weather Saturday morning before making a decision on whether or not to postpone the contest.
Fans should follow TTUSports.com and social media for updates regarding the status of this weekend's contests.
Photo by Thomas Corhern