By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Great offensive play and more dynamite bullpen contributions helped the Tennessee Tech baseball team complete the full series sweep of Youngstown State Saturday. The Golden Eagles (6-4) defeated the Penguins (0-9) twice in doubleheader action, winning by final scores of 9-2 and 8-4.
Game one featured a quick 1-0 lead by the visiting Penguins, but the Golden Eagles were quick to rebound and, essentially, put the game in safe hands early. In the bottom of the second, Tech erupted for five runs on four hits and an error, taking the lead for good on an RBI double from catcher John Elford.
Redshirt freshman second baseman Nathan McMeans reached on a throwing error to start the frame, scoring all the way from first on a double down the left field line from junior third baseman Cody Littlejohn. Elford then uncorked his own two-bagger down the line for bring Littlejohn home.
Junior shortstop Jay Meuse reached on a fielder's choice that drove in Elford, who slid in ahead of the throw from second base for another Tech run. After the Golden Eagles posted their second out, senior outfielder Kevin Strohschein lit up some fireworks. The consensus All-American rifled a laser to left field for a two-run home run, his first of the season, that gave Tech a 5-1 lead.
Junior college transfer Mark Leonard took over from there, holding Youngstown State without a run for five straight innings. The right-hander completed a total of six and two thirds frames while allowing just two earned runs and a walk. He struck out six batters while earning his first win in the purple and gold.
The Tech bats were back at it in the fifth, with the brunt of the damage coming from freshman first baseman Jason Hogan. The slugger uncorked a rainbow into the right center field gap, strapped up his PF Flyers and flew around the bases. He then leapt into third base, conjuring memories of Pete Rose's famous slide into home plate, and reached safely for a two-run triple.
Meuse followed with a double to right center, turning on the jets to expand what seemed to be a single into two bases. His hit drove in Hogan for an 8-1 lead.
Tech scored its ninth run of the game in the sixth, as rookie outfielder JD Funk drew a five-pitch walk with the bases loaded. The Penguins scored once in the seventh, but senior southpaw Andrew O'Dwyer shut the door over the final two and a third innings, allowing just one hit and striking out one.
Strohschein finished the contest 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI and a walk, making history along the way. With a single up the middle in the fourth, the slugger recorded his 280th career base knock, moving into second place on Tech's all-time career hits list.
Meuse was also special in the contest, collecting three hits in five at bats with two RBI and a run scored.
Game two started much in the same way as game one of the doubleheader, with the Penguins taking a 1-0 lead in the first off freshman starter Thomas Saliba. The rookie right-hander then held Youngstown State off the scoreboard for the next four innings.
While the Knoxville native kept the visitors at bay, Tech again pounced in the second frame, scoring four times for a 4-1 lead. Junior outfielder Anthony Carrera led things off with a single down the right field line.
Youngstown State earned two outs, but Elford tied things up anyway with a clutch, RBI single down the left field line on a 2-2 count. Junior outfielder Gavin Johns followed with an RBI single to left field, giving Tech the lead, which it would hold the remainder of the game.
Meuse took his turn next, lacing a single to right center field for another RBI. Pinch hitting in the following at bat, freshman John Dyer blistered a single up the middle, providing Tech with a 4-1 lead.
In the third, Johns delivered again, singling to left field with the bases loaded to drive in a pair of runs. Tech plated two more again in the fourth, with Dyer crossing home plate thanks to a wild pitch. McMeans drove in the second marker, connecting on an 0-1 offering for an RBI single to center field.
The Penguins scored three times in the third on the power of two home runs, but the Tech bullpen said no for the remainder of the game. Senior left-hander Alex Hursey covered two innings with a pair of Ks and no hits or runs allowed. Junior college transfer Jacob Cole wrapped up the eighth without a run allowed, fanning two as well.
Sophomore right hander Tyler Sylvester then recorded the final three outs to provide Tech with the sweep. Saliba, who claimed his second victory of the season, concluded five innings with four earned runs allowed. He also struck out a season-high seven batters.
Johns led Tech with a 3-for-4 showing and three RBI in the second contest. McMeans also put together a 3-for-4 performance with a pair of runs scored while Carrera scored twice as well.
In the doubleheader sweep, the Golden Eagles totaled 26 hits while holding the Penguins to 14. The Tech pitching staff racked up 19 strikeouts on the day, while holding Youngstown State to just six runs.
The Golden Eagles will return to the diamond Tuesday, Mar. 5, hitting the road for a visit at Alabama A&M.
Photo by Tony Marable