By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – For the second time in 48 hours, the Tennessee Tech baseball survived a late comeback bid to extend the nation's longest winning streak. The Golden Eagles (36-5, 18-1) edged Ohio Valley Conference rival Southeast Missouri (20-22, 14-8) Friday evening, 7-6, for their 27th consecutive victory.
Holding a 7-5 advantage headed into the top of the ninth, Golden Eagle junior closer Ethan Roberts took to the hill for his third inning of work looking for his 11th save of the season. The Redhawks wouldn't make it easy.
Chase Urhahn led off the inning with a single, but Roberts instantly answered by forcing a pop up on a bunt attempt for the first out. SEMO's Trevor Ezell watched a pair of balls just miss the outside corner of the zone before doubling to right center field to cut the Tech lead to one.
A fly ball out to right center allowed Ezell to advance to third base, putting the tying run just 90 feet away with two outs. And then Roberts dug deep. After working a 2-2 count to Jason Dirden, the Sparta native induced another pop up, this time to second base, to end the game and clinch Tech's unbelievable 27th victory in-a-row.
Roberts finished the final three innings of the contest, fanning three and allowing just four hits and a run. He notched his second save in as many as many games in the week and his league-leading 11th on the year.
Senior Travis Moths picked up his OVC-best ninth victory of the year, moving into a tie for third-most in a single season in school history. The victory also represented Moths' 21st of his career, ranking him fourth in program history. The right-hander tossed six inning with five strikeouts and five earned runs to snag the win.
Chase Chambers put the Golden Eagles on the board early, driving in junior Kevin Strohschein with a base hit to left center field in the first. Southeast Missouri answered in the third, plating two to take the lead.
In the fifth, Tech used its specialty to recapture its advantage, using a Collin Harris long ball to take a 4-2 lead. The senior outfielder crushed a three-run blast to right field, clearing the fence for the fifth time of the season. It marked Tech's 98th home run of the season, sitting just one behind the program record set last year.
The Redhawks came right back, scoring three times in the sixth to jump back on top, 5-4. One more time, however, the Golden Eagles had a response.
Strohschein led off the bottom half of the sixth with single and, thanks to a brilliant piece of base running, reached second base on a slight bobble of the ball by the SEMO right fielder. A single to center field by junior John Ham advanced Strohschein to third, setting up David Garza for a great opportunity.
The senior delivered with a long fly ball to centerfield, a sacrifice fly that brought Strohschein home to tie the game at 5-5. Then, on a 2-0 count, junior Nick Osborne carried over his heroics from Wednesday's contest.
After finishing 5-for-5 with two home runs and four RBI against Tennessee, Osborne came through with the go-ahead, RBI single through the left side of the infield.
Harris led off the bottom of the seventh with a single, but the Redhawks responded with a pair of quick outs. With the senior making it to second base on a ground out, SEMO opted to make a pitching change with Strohschein due up next.
The plan back fired, as the junior designated hitter ripped the first pitch he saw through the left side for the eventual winning run.
Strohschein finished the contest 3-for-4 with a run score and an RBI while Harris notched two hits in two at bats to go along with three RBI and two runs scored. Ham tallied a pair of hits in four at bats as well.
Game two of the OVC series is set for a 2 p.m. CT start Saturday afternoon at Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex.
Photo by Tony Marable