Eight Golden Eagle players claim OVC honors; Bragga named OVC Coach of the Year

Eight Golden Eagle players claim OVC honors; Bragga named OVC Coach of the Year

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

JACKSON, Tenn. – While the 2013 season still isn't over for the Tennessee Tech baseball team, several members of the Golden Eagle squad have been honored for their spectacular play during the regular season as the Ohio Valley Conference announced their post season awards Tuesday evening.

Eight Golden Eagle players earned a place as All-OVC players, including three first-teamers and five second-teamers.

Also recognized Tuesday night was head coach Matt Bragga, who grabbed his second OVC Coach of the Year honors after leading Tech to its eighth OVC regular season championship, an OVC-record 24 league wins, and tying the school record for wins with 39.

Bragga is just the second Tech coach to earn the honor, the other being OVC Hall of Famer David Mays who took home the honor five times during his career (the last coming in 1997). After finishing eighth in the OVC a season ago and missing the OVC Tournament, Tennessee Tech was picked to finish sixth in this year's preseason poll. Bragga was able to lead the Golden Eagles well past those expectations.

During the season the team had a 14-game winning streak (which was the longest in the nation when it ended and the tied for the longest in program history) and also topped No. 2 Vanderbilt on April 16, marking the largest upset in both program history and TTU athletics history. As a team Tech ranks second nationally in pitching strikeouts per nine innings (9.1), fourth in sacrifice flies (37), fifth in slugging (.474), fifth in home runs/game (1.0), ninth in runs (404) and doubles/game (2.24) and 10th in scoring (7.5/game) and fielding percentage (.979).

Among those player earning first team honors were Daniel Miles, Brandon Thomasson, and Tristan Archer. Second team honors were presented to Dylan Bosheers, Zach Zarzour, Zach Stephens, James Abraham, and Seth Lucio.

A four-year starting pitcher, Archer has spent much of this season rewriting the Tennessee Tech record books and firmly cementing a place among the all-time greats in Tech history. Archer already owns two career records and with 22 career victories, he sits just one win away from breaking a tie for the most career wins in Golden Eagle history. He has pitched the most innings (315.1) of any Tech pitcher in a career and has also made more starts (54) than any other Golden Eagle. Archer ranks second among all Tech pitchers in strikeouts, setting down 267 batters on strikes.

On the year, Archer has already broken his career-high in wins, leading the Golden Eagles with eight wins in 2013, ranking second in the Ohio Valley Conference. His 85 strikeouts this season currently ranks second in the league. He has thrown 88.2 innings, and owns three 10+ strikeout games this season, including his first career complete-game shutout over SIUE. The performance led to the senior garnering his fourth career adidas OVC Pitcher of the Week honor. A member of the 2010 OVC all-Freshman team, Archer was also named OVC Player of the Week by College Sports Madness.

In just his first season as member of the Golden Eagles, third baseman Daniel Miles has proven to be a difference maker at third base. The junior ranks second on the squad with a .344 batting average, collecting 65 hits in 50 games this season. Twenty-six of those hits have gone for extra bases, including 11 doubles, three triples and 12 home runs. His .624 slugging percentage ranks third in the Ohio Valley Conference. He also ranks in the top five in the league in RBI (53), triples, home runs, and total bases (118).

Miles put together one of the best single-game performances in team history this season, hammering three home runs at Austin Peay. All three dingers came in consecutive innings as the junior slugger recorded six RBI in the contest. His weekend performance against the Governors led to his first of two adidas OVC Player of the Week awards as well as two Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week honors. This season he also became the first Tech player to ever hit a grand slam in back-to-back games.

Brandon Thomasson is tied for second on the Golden Eagle team with 12 home runs and has also collected 51 RBI to help propel his way to being the All-OVC first-team selection at the designated hitter position. Thomasson finished the regular season with a.284 batting average to go along with a .554 slugging percentage. The junior earned OVC Player of the Week honors twice this season. He has produced 18 multiple-RBI games this season to go along with 18 doubles, three triples, and his 12 dingers.

Zach Stephens came into the 2013 season with huge expectations after being named Ohio Valley Conference Preseason co-Player of the Year, Preseason All-OVC first-team, Preseason All-America third-team by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and Louisville Slugger Preseason All-America honorable mention by CollegeBaseballInsider.com. The junior has done a great job of tempering those expectations by leading the Golden Eagles in runs scored (57), hits (73), home runs (15), RBI (69), walks (38), and slugging percentage (.636). His 69 RBI leads the OVC as does his 15 home runs.

He also ranks in the top five in the OVC in slugging percentage, runs, total bases, and walks. The junior slugger owns a solid .341 batting average and has improved dramatically on the defensive side of the ball, owning a .993 fielding percentage after 54 games at first base. Stephens ranks fourth in the nation in RBI per game, driving in 1.24 runners each contest. His 0.26 home runs per game rate places him 14th in Division I baseball. He earned adidas OVC Player of the Week earlier this season as well as OVC Player of the Week by College Sports Madness. In just three seasons, Stephens has already made on impact on the Tech record books, pasting his names among the best hitters to don a Golden Eagle uniform.

His 43 career long balls already ranks second on the all-time home runs list, just eight behind former Tech slugger A.J. Kirby-Jones and 10 off the all-time OVC record . He also ranks second for career RBI, racking up 170 so far in his career, just 38 shy of the OVC record. Stephens already ranks among the top 10 hitters in Tech history as his 206 hits are good enough for eighth. He is also among the top 10 in career doubles (seventh), slugging percentage (sixth), total bases (third), and walks (10th) and is approaching the top 10 in runs scored, triples, and at bats. This marks the second straight season Stephens has earned All-OVC second-team honors.

After garnering OVC All-Freshman honors just a season ago, shortstop Dylan Bosheers collected second-team honors following another solid season. The sophomore has started every game of the season at shortstop, just one year after making every start at second base. Bosheers hasn't missed a beat, recording a .976 fielding percentage and making just one error the entire OVC season. He is batting an impressive .332 on the year, collecting 68 hits, including 18 doubles, two triples, and six long balls. His .527 slugging percentage ranks fourth on the team, as do his 45 RBI. He is also one of just three Tech players to hit a grand slam on the year.

Taking over for Bosheers at second base was junior Zach Zarzour and he proved more than capable, earning second-team honors behind a solid first year. As the team's lead-off hitter, Zarzour is batting .310, has scored 54 runs, driven in 26 RBI, and stolen 13 bases. His .971 fielding percentage has helped contribute strongly to great team defense.

Senior James Abraham collected second-team honors behind a fantastic overall year. The left fielder leads the Golden Eagles with a .346 batting average and also leads Tech with 14 stolen bases. Abraham has made just one error all season, putting together a .989 fielding percentage. He has collected 65 hits while scoring 39 runs and driving in 29 more while slugging .415. He has also drawn 27 walks to contribute to his .431 on-base percentage.

Seth Lucio has put together arguably the best season as a closer in Tech history. In his first season as the Golden Eagle closer, the sophomore has already broken the single-season saves record and sits just one away from the career record of 12. He has made a single-season record 28 appearances on the year, allowing just six earned runs in over 40 innings of work. He has struck out an incredible 58 batters this season, walking just 18 and holding batters to a .200 average. Just one season after being named to the OVC All-Freshman team, Lucio earned second-team honors this season.

The Golden Eagles will go for the tournament title beginning Thursday, May 24 when they take on the lowest seed remaining from the first day's games at 7 p.m. CDT.