By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – For the second time in two days, the Tennessee Tech baseball team wore out the scoreboard Wednesday evening, as the Golden Eagles (17-6) won their fifth consecutive contest with a 17-3 decision over Alabama A&M (5-19).
One night after exploding for 24 hits in a 20-9 victory at UNC Asheville, the Tech bats stayed red hot upon their return to Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex, working seven Bulldog pitchers to the tune of 15 hits and 17 runs.
On the flip side, the Golden Eagle pitching staff was lights out, scattering four hits and three runs while shutting out the visitors over the final five frames.
Alabama A&M actually took an early lead in the contest, scoring in the first inning on an RBI double down the right field line. Tech quickly had an answer, however, in the form of designated hitter Ryan Flick.
The junior lefty, who came to the plate with two runners following a leadoff walk to Alex Junior and hit-by-pitch on Kevin Strohschein, uncorked a line-drive, three-run long ball over the wall in center field. His sixth dinger of the year provided Tech a lead it would never relinquish. Senior Matt Jones made sure of the fact three batters later, lacing a two-out, RBI double to left center field for the eventual winning run.
After the Bulldogs answered with a solo run in the second, the Golden Eagles responded in the third, gathering two more markers on a two-run moon shot to left field by Jones. Alabama A&M scored once more in the fourth, plating a single run on an RBI single.
Despite the three-run lead, the Tech offense would not let up. In the bottom of the fifth, 12 Golden Eagle batters took to the plate, even with a first-pitch ground out to start the inning.
Jones got smacked with a pitch and shortstop David Garza followed with a five-pitch walk to set up junior Brennon Kaleiwahea up with an RBI opportunity. The JUCO transfer delivered with an RBI double down the third base line, kicking off a monster offensive onslaught.
Junior followed with a beautiful, two-run single to right center field and advanced to third base on a first-pitch single to center field by junior Trevor Putzig. Strohschein ripped an RBI base knock down the third base line to keep the offense rolling and prompting Alabama A&M's third pitching change of the evening.
Flick made it an unpleasant welcome for the Bulldog reliever, drawing a seven-pitch walk to load the bases. Chase Chambers rocketed a towering fly ball to center field, a ball that was dropped for an error. The first baseman received a sac fly and RBI on the play, advancing to second base on a throwing error, also by the center fielder. Two runs scored on the play while one out was deemed after some confusion on the base paths occurred on the play.
Collin Harris rounded out the scoring for the Golden Eagles in the inning, torching a single through the left side for an RBI.
Seemingly unsatisfied, the Tech offense plated two more in the sixth thanks to a leadoff home run by Kaleiwahea – the first of the junior's career in purple and gold – and a wild pitch, which allowed Junior to dent the plate.
In the eighth inning, the Golden Eagles put runners of the corners for another threat, one that produced the team's 16th and 17th runs. Flick flipped his NCAA-leading 16th double of the season, and second of the game, down the third base line for an RBI. Strohschein, who reached on a single up the middle, then scored on a passed ball for the final run of the game.
On the hill, the Golden Eagles received three strong appearances out of the pen to completely shut down the Bulldog offense over the final five innings. Earning the victory on the day, sophomore Marcus Evey completed the fifth and sixth frames without allowing a hit and striking out three batters.
Redshirt junior Evan Fraliex came on for a brilliant two frames in which he did not allow a base runner. Fraliex fanned two of the six batters he faced while need just 29 pitches. Senior Brandon Smith completed the contest, fanning one before eventually inducing the game-ending 6-4-2-4-2-6 double play.
With the victory, the Golden Eagles will hit the road off to the best 23-game start since the 2014 season, making a visit to Clarksville, Tenn. for a critical Ohio Valley Conference series against in-state rival Austin Peay from Mar. 24-26. First pitch is scheduled for a 6 p.m. CT start on Friday with 1 p.m. contests slated for Saturday and Sunday.
Photo by Tony Marable