By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Behind the power of not one, but two more victories, the No. 21 Tennessee Tech baseball team extended the nation's longest winning streak to 25 straight games. The Golden Eagles (34-5) completed a non-conference series sweep over Southern Illinois (20-20), claiming wins of 11-4 and 18-5 during Saturday's doubleheader.
Patience was key to the offensive attack in game one of the day, as Tech drew 13 walks to help plate 11 runs in the victory. Seniors Trevor Putzig and Chase Chambers each drew three free passes in the contest, while juniors Nick Osborne and Alex Junior each earned a pair of trips to first base.
Osborne walked with the bases loaded in the second inning, giving Tech a 1-0 lead. Junior followed three batters later, lacing a single down the right field line that cleared the bases and provided a 4-0 advantage.
The Golden Eagles doubled their run total in the fourth, starting with a leadoff home run from senior Brennon Kaleiwahea. Chambers tacked on three more for the Tech effort, hammering a blast to right center field for his 11th long ball of the year.
Putzig drew a bases-loaded walk in the fifth and was plunked by a pitch with the bases juiced in the seventh to help the effort while Chambers also collected an RBI on a bases-loaded free pass in the seventh.
With the Tech bats providing supports on the scoreboard, junior hurler Marcus Evey concentrated his efforts on keeping the Salukis off of it. The right-hander finished five innings with a whopping nine strikeouts, holding the visitors to just three runs. He moved to a perfect 5-0 on the year with another strong showing on the hill.
In game two, the two sides battled back and forth through the first three and a half innings, with Tech starting the game in the scoring column again. Senior David Garza kicked things off with an RBI double to right center field while Kaleiwahea followed with an RBI groundout.
The Salukis came back to tie the game with single runs in the third and fourth. And then Tech jumped back on top for good. Kaleiwahea delivered a clutch, two-out hit, ripping a two-run single up the middle on a full count. Harris tripled to right field in the next at bat, eventually scoring on a throwing error.
Tech continued to plate runs, scoring twice in the fifth and five more times in the sixth before putting the power on full display in the eighth. Junior Kevin Strohschein led off the frame with his 12th bomb of the season, a towering, solo shot to left center.
Three batters later, Garza hammered his 12th long ball to right center field, a two-run dinger. After a four-pitch walk to Osborne, sophomore John Elford crushed a ball that cleared the wall in center field for two more runs and a dominant 18-5 lead.
On the hill, junior Alex Hursey was strong through five innings, holding Southern Illinois to three runs on five hits and pair of walks. He moved to 6-2 on the year while striking out three.
Seth Noel tossed a scoreless sixth frame and Osborne came to the mound from right field to wrap up the final two frames. He totaled four strikeouts without allowing a baserunner.
Chambers posted a monster day at the plate, finishing 6-for-7 with seven RBI and five runs scored. Three more Golden Eagles tallied at least three RBI, including Junior, Kaleiwahea and Garza.
The Golden Eagles will look to continue their winning streak on Tuesday, Apr. 24, making the trip to Knoxville to take on Tennessee at 5:30 p.m. CT.
Photo by Tony Marable