Ham hits for cycle, Golden Eagles even series with Troy

Ham hits for cycle, Golden Eagles even series with Troy

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

TROY, Ala. – Another strong offensive showing, as well as a pair of impressive relief appearances, helped the Tennessee Tech baseball team even its weekend series at Troy at 1-1 Saturday afternoon. The Golden Eagles (6-3) defeated the Trojans (6-5) at Riddle-Pace Field, 10-6.

Much like game one of the three-game series, Tech locked onto the scoreboard first, gathering an RBI single from one of the day's offensive heroes, John Ham. The junior second baseman became the first Golden Eagle since 2014 (Brandon Thomasson) to hit for the cycle, finishing 4-for-4 in the contest.

In the top of the third, Tech plate two more runs behind a trio of hits. Senior slugger Chase Chambers hammered his fourth home run of the year to center field, followed by a triple down the right-field line by Ham. Senior shortstop David Garza followed with an infield single to his counterpart in the field, driving in Ham for a 3-0 Tech lead.

Troy answered with a large inning in the third, scoring five runs behind a patient approach. Tech issued to two bases-loaded walks and hit a batter with the bases juiced as part of the five-run frame for the home team.

Tech took its time tying the contest, starting its comeback bid in the fifth. Earning his third trip to the plate in the contest, Ham crushed a solo bomb to right field to chip away at the deficit, making it a 5-4 Troy lead. In the sixth, junior Kevin Strohschein took his turn chipping in to the scoring, smashing along fly ball to center field for a sacrifice fly to even the score at 5-5.

Helping the Golden Eagles in its rally was the sophomore pitcher Devin Lancaster. After walking in a run and hitting a batter in the third inning, the right-hander really settled down on the mound, tossing a total of four scoreless frames while scattering two hits. Lancaster punched out five Troy batters, including the side in the fourth, earning his first victory of the season.

With the score knotted at five in the top of the seventh, the Golden Eagle offense went back to work. Ham and senior Collin Harris each got plunked by pitches with an out sandwiched between. Head coach Matt Bragga made the decision to pinch hit in the designated hitter spot, calling on freshman slugger Jason Hinchman.

The choice paid huge dividends, as the rookie blasted a 1-1 offering over the fence in right field for his first career home run and an 8-5 Golden Eagle lead. In the bottom half, junior closer Ethan Roberts relieved Lancaster after the sophomore recorded two outs. Roberts proceeded to gather a fly ball and take Tech to the eighth, where Ham turned in a double to right center field to complete the cycle.

Troy managed to record the first run off Roberts all season in the eighth, posting an RBI double after the Sparta native began the inning with a double-play ball to second base. The Tech closer recovered quickly, inducing an inning-ending grounder to shortstop.

Tech gathered a couple of huge insurance runs in the ninth, with Chambers ripping a bases-loaded, two run single through the left side to make it a 10-6 Golden Eagle lead. Roberts closed things from there, striking out the first two batters of the ninth. After surrendering a pair of singles, the closer induced a game-ending fly ball to center field to earn his second save of the season.

Chambers led the team with three RBI in the contest, finishing 3-for-5 at the plate. Ham scored three runs and drove in two while going 4-for-4 and hitting for the cycle. He reached base all six times he took to the plate. Senior Trevor Putzig tied the program's single game record for walks, drawing four of them on the day.

Tech and Troy will meet in the rubber game Sunday afternoon, with first pitch slated for a 1 p.m. CT start.

Photo by Tony Marable