By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
RICHMOND, Ky. – For the ninth time in the history of Tennessee Tech baseball, the Golden Eagles (35-17, 21-5) claimed the Ohio Valley Conference regular season championship Saturday evening, defeating Eastern Kentucky (24-27, 10-16) on the road, 9-2.
The victory not only secured the Tech squad with its ninth regular season league title, it also clinched the Golden Eagles the No. 1 seed in the OVC Tournament in two weeks. TTU will play the winning team between the No. 4 seed and No. 5 seed on Thursday, May 25 at 12:30 p.m. CT at Choccolocco Park in Oxford, Ala.
In the title clinching contest, Tech jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning. After a six-pitch walk to the second batter of the game, junior shortstop David Garza, junior third baseman Trevor Putzig laced a double to right field. With runners on second and third, junior designated hitter Ryan Flick came through with a two-run single to third base.
EKU answered with a solo run in the bottom of the first, but starter Jake Usher shut down a bases-loaded jam to get out of the inning. The senior hurler was dynamite for the Golden Eagles in the contest, tossing seven innings while allowing just three hits and two earned runs along the way. He struck out three batters while picking up his fourth victory of the year.
The two sides traded zeroes over the next three innings, before the Golden Eagles struck again in the top of the fifth. With the bases loaded, Garza came to the plate and waited for a 2-0 offering. He then deposited the ball through the left side to drive in two more Tech runs for a 4-1 lead.
Once again, the Colonels had an answer, scoring once in the bottom half of the frame to cut the lead to just two runs. Tech earned the run back in the sixth, thanks to an RBI single by senior catcher Chris Brown.
The Golden Eagles then blew the game wide open in the seventh, thanks to a mammoth swing from junior first baseman Chase Chambers. After walks were dished out to Garza and Putzig, EKU managed to record its second out of the frame. The home squad then worked the count full to Chambers, who fouled off the sixth pitch of the at bat.
The seventh offering, however, he did not miss. Chambers completely massacred the pitch to right center field, smashing the top of the light pole for a three-run moon shot that made it an 8-2 game in favor of the Golden Eagles. It marked the 16th home run of the year for the slugger, tops on the Tech squad.
After a issuing a leadoff walk in the eighth, Usher was lifted in favor of closer Ethan Roberts, putting an end to a fantastic outing by the right-handed starter. Roberts made sure it would stand without a problem, forcing a fielder's choice out to second base before striking out the next two batters to end the eighth.
Putzig hammered a solo shot in the top of the ninth to complete the offensive day for Tech, setting up Roberts with a seven-run lead and just three outs away from a championship.
Like clockwork, the sophomore delivered, fanning the side in order for his third, fourth and fifth strikeouts of the game and, more importantly, an OVC regular season title for the Golden Eagles. He finished the contest with no hits or walks allowed and the five punch outs in two innings of work.
Offensively, Chambers led Tech with three RBI on his mighty hack while Garza and Flick each followed with two RBI each. Putzig finished 2-for-4 with a walk and three runs scored while Garza walked and scored twice as well.
The Golden Eagles will look to win its eighth OVC series of the year Sunday afternoon, with the rubber match at Eastern Kentucky slated for a noon start.
Photo by TTU Baseball Assistant Coach Derek Weldon