By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – On the heels of earning its highest ever national ranking, the No. 25 Tennessee Tech baseball team kept its offense rolling at Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex Wednesday evening.
The Golden Eagles (26-5) dropped the hammer early to defeat in-state rival Middle Tennessee (18-16) and extend the nation's longest winning streak to 17 straight games. Pounding out 17 hits, Tech earned a 14-2 victory after scoring 11 runs over the first three frames.
The offense seemed to forget that batting practice ended prior to first pitch, gathering four straight hits to kick off the game. Center fielder Alex Junior led off the game with a single to his counterpart. Returning to the lineup after missing two games with an injury, senior Trevor Putizg blasted the first pitch he saw clear over the wall in right center field for a 2-0 lead.
Almost immediately, junior Kevin Strohschein hammered a 2-1 pitch for a solo bomb to center field to make it 3-0. The two players have now connected back-to-back for each of their last home runs apiece. Both also have 10 dingers on the year, tied for the team lead.
In the third, Tech continued to roll. Junior led off the frame with another base hit and Putzig followed with a single through the left side. Strohschein drew a walk, setting up senior Chase Chambers for some fireworks. The first baseman torched a 3-2 pitch to right center field for a grand slam, his ninth long ball of the year. The veteran would finish the day an impressive 4-for-4 before being subbed out late in the contest.
Tech would go on to score another four runs in the frame, putting the game away early with an 11-0 lead. Junior would go yard in the bottom of the fifth inning with his sixth dinger of the year. He gathered four hits in five at bats, finishing just a triple shy of the cycle. Freshman first baseman Jason Hinchman, who relieved Chambers in the eighth frame at first, turned in his third home run of the year, crushing a line drive over the wall in right center field.
On the mound, Nic Dye was very effective through five innings, earning his third victory of the season while allowing just one run. He scattered four hits, two walks and two hit batsman thanks to some great defense. The sophomore southpaw fanned five in the contest as well.
Tech turned three double plays on the night, including two with Dye on the mound. Catcher Brennon Kaleiwahea was a defensive stalwart on the night as well, throwing out a Blue Raider runner attempting to steal second and back picking a runner off first base.
Grant Phillips, Jacob Parham, Zack Wilcox, Seth Noel and Nick Osborne combined to wrap up the final four innings for the Golden Eagles, combining for seven strikeouts and just one run. Osborne came out of right field for the ninth and struck out the side to clinch Tech's 17th consecutive victory.
The Golden Eagles will look to extend the streak even further this weekend with a trip to Ohio Valley Conference rival Murray State. The three-game series will kick off Friday, Apr. 13 with a 6 p.m. CT contest in Murray, Ky.
Photo by Thomas Corhern