By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The power was on full display for the No. 21 Tennessee Tech baseball team Friday evening, as the Golden Eagles (38-6, 20-2) blasted five home runs on their way to a 13-10 victory over in-state and Ohio Valley Conference rival Belmont (16-29, 10-15) at E.S. Rose Park.
The Tech squad rebounded nicely after falling for the first time in over a month in its last time on the diamond, a 10-6 loss to Southeast Missouri that broke the team's NCAA-leading 28-game winning streak. It took a few innings to regain the offensive rhythm that has the Golden Eagles ranked first nationally in multiple statistical categories, but once it did, there was no turning back.
Senior catcher Brennon Kaleiwahea kicked off the rally for the visiting squad, singling to center field to lead off the top of the third inning. Fellow senior Collin Harris followed with a single to left field, setting up center fielder Alex Junior for a sacrifice bunt situation.
Junior did one better, laying down a perfect bunt and beating out the throw to first for an infield single that loaded the bases. Senior third baseman Trevor Putzig put the Golden Eagles on the scoreboard first, sending a fly ball to right field for a sacrifice fly and RBI.
Slugging junior Kevin Strohschein followed it up by clearing the bases with a three-run blast to right center field, his 13th of the year. The 4-0 lead changed to 5-0 in the blink of an eye, as senior first baseman Chase Chambers rocketed the first pitch he saw over the fence in right field for back-to-back jacks. It marked his 12th long ball of the year.
Chambers' shot to right field also represented the team's 100th home run of the season, breaking the program single-season record of 99 set last season. Additionally, it made the Golden Eagles just the second team to reach triple digits in long balls in a single year since the adoption of the BBCOR bat in 2011. Wake Forest totaled 106 last season to lead the nation and rank just ahead of Tech.
Belmont answered with a pair of runs in the third, but Putzig would go on to make it a 6-2 lead in the fifth, blasting his 13th dinger of the season to left center field to lead off the top of the fifth.
Once again, the Bruins would plate a pair of runs following Tech's output, but the Golden Eagles made sure to put things away for good late in the contest.
Harris led off the seventh inning with another Tech round-tripper, his sixth of the year. Putzig would score in the frame on a passed ball and senior shortstop David Garza would drive in two more for the Golden Eagle effort with a single.
In the eighth, Strohschein showed off his strength again, hammering his second, three-run shot of the ball game to left field for a 13-4 advantage.
Senior hurler Travis Moths picked up his league-leading 10th victory of the year, tying Doug Vincent (2002) for the second most in a single season in program history. It also represented his 22nd career win, moving him into a tie for second place in school history. He needs just one win to tie Tristan Archer (2010-13) for most in the program's history.
Moths tossed five inning with five strikeouts and four earned runs allowed. Junior closer Ethan Roberts took over in the sixth inning with a two-run lead and tossed a couple of frames, fanning four before being lifted in the eighth after Tech took a nine-run lead.
Belmont scored six in the ninth before Tyler Sylvester closed the book on its comeback bid, securing Tech's 20th league win of the season.
Strohschein led Tech with six RBI as part of a 2-for-5 day with three runs scored. Junior, Harris and Kaleiwahea also recorded multiple hits in the contest.
Game two of the series is set for a 6 p.m. CT first pitch on Saturday in Nashville.
Photo by Tony Marable