Golden Eagles hold off late Austin Peay rally to stay remain perfect in OVC play

Golden Eagles hold off late Austin Peay rally to stay remain perfect in OVC play

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech baseball team (20-6, 9-0) won an up-and-down contest at Austin Peay (11-12, 4-5) Saturday afternoon, clinching a perfect 9-0 start to Ohio Valley Conference play by holding off a late APSU surge for a 14-13 victory in Clarksville, Tenn.

The win clinched the Golden Eagles' first sweep over their in-state rival since 2001 and their first sweep against the Govs in Clarksville since 1988. The 9-0 start matches the best start to conference play in program history, tying the 1956 Tech squad which started 9-0 and finished 10-1 in the OVC while winning the league and earning a trip to the NCAA District III Playoffs.

Tech's overall 20-6 record through the first 26 games represents Tech's best start since going 21-5 in 2014. The Golden Eagles won 40 games in 2014, as well as in 2013 when the team also started 20-6.

Not wanting to let Tech get the early advantage, Austin Peay jumped on the scoreboard first on Saturday, plating three with two home runs in the bottom of the first.

Unfazed, the Golden Eagles worked the score to a 3-3 tie by the third, scoring on a fielding error in the second and using an RBI double by Kevin Strohschein and sacrifice fly from Ryan Flick in the third.

A solo long ball by the Govs in the third gave Austin Peay a 4-3 advantage, but the Tech offense went off in the fifth to take the lead for good. Alex Junior led off the frame with a single through the right side and was immediately followed by a single to left field from Trevor Putzig. A second double off the bat of Strohschein tied the game at 4-4.

After Austin Peay gathered its first out of the frame, Tech continued its romp through the lineup as Chase Chambers took a pitched off the elbow to load the bases. Senior Chris Brown promptly singled to right field for two RBI, providing the Golden Eagles their first lead of the game.

Not finished in the frame, Collin Harris walked to once again put three on the bases for Tech. Matt Jones then blew the game wide open, ripping a double to right field for two more TTU runs and an 8-4 lead. David Garza singled through the left side to drive in the final run of the inning for the Golden Eagles, making it a 9-4 Tech advantage.

The Govs chipped away over the next two frames, gathering a two-run dinger in the bottom of the fifth and an RBI double in the sixth, cutting the deficit to 9-7.

Tech played along, posting two insurance runs in the top of the seventh with a huge, two-out, two-run double on a full count from Putzig. The Golden Eagles then seemingly put the game out of reach in the eighth.

With an 11-7 lead already in the books, Tech added three more runs with an RBI, bases-loaded walk to Garza and two-run single up the middle off the bat of Junior. Despite the 14-7 advantage, Austin Peay kept attacking.

The home team plated four in the bottom of the eighth on a wild pitch and three-run long ball. Making it just a three-run ball game. The Govs seemed to have new life in the ninth, maybe even destined to complete the comeback after smacking a two-run home run with zero outs in the ninth.

Holding tight to a 14-13 advantage, the Golden Eagles turned to freshman Devin Lancaster in a tough spot. The rookie midweek starter took the hill with the tying run on first, winning run at the plate and no outs on the scoreboard, not to mention the Govs' three, four and five hitters coming to the plate.

Understandably, some nerves were evident to start as Lancaster walked the first batter he faced on five pitches. He quickly rebounded, however, gathering the first out of the inning by forcing a fly out to left field by Dre Gleason, Austin Peay's most dangerous hitter.

On his very next pitch, Lancaster induced a pop up to first base for an infield fly rule out, putting Tech just one away from holding on. Finally, on a 2-0 pitch, the freshman forced a ground ball to third baseman Cody Littlejohn, who stepped on third base for the force out and final out of the game.

Lancaster picked up his first save of the season and his career with the single inning of work. Starter Chase Burkett earned his fourth victory of the season after tossing five and one third innings.

Six Golden Eagle batters recorded two RBI each in total team effort. Six Tech players also posted multi-hit performances, with Putzig leading the way with a 4-for-6 showing. Junior notched three hits in six trips to the plate. Jones led the team with three runs score while finished 2-for-4.

Now with eight straight victories on the board, the Golden Eagles will stay on the road for a midweek match-up with in-state foe Tennessee on Tuesday, Mar. 28. The contest in Knoxville is set for a 5 p.m. CT first pitch.

Photo by Tony Marable