By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Baseballs flying over the outfield wall at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex comes as nothing new, but on Saturday, Nov. 17, each ball that left the park brought with it a gift to the Tennessee Tech baseball program.
After leading collegiate baseball in home runs during the 2018 season with 135 through 65 games, head coach Justin Holmes and his staff unleashed their unique brand of fun and excitement during the inaugural Home Run Derby Fundraiser.
The event benefitted TTU baseball by helping with facility improvements and general operations support for the upcoming season. Each player was tasked with garnering pledges for every home run they were to potentially hit. With outright donations and pledges set, the only thing left to do was deposit some five-ounce pearls into the surrounding athletic complexes.
The format of the derby paired up a hitter and a pitcher who rotated over two rounds of 10 swings. The rounds were preceded by a practice round of five swings that the players had the option of counting towards their total of 20 swings or leaving as an uncounted practice round. Each swing was analytically broken down thanks to the Rapsodo data collection technology system. This system allowed the team to see ball flight distances, exit velocities, launch angles, as well as other analytics and is an important addition to team development.
Freshman John Dyer led the show blasting five long balls ranging up to 463 feet. Dyer was followed by 31 teammates ready to step in the box and swing the stick. None of them put on a show like senior Kevin Strohschein, who unloaded 10 balls in two rounds and had fans in attendance ready for opening day.
One of Strohschein's dingers was tracked exiting left-center field at a distance of 477 feet, coming off the bat at a staggering 113.9 miles per hour. After being tied at 10 with freshman Jason Hogan, Strohschein ended the day belting three additional long balls in a round-of-five swing-off.
Among the pitchers that participated in the derby, Caleb Morgan led the charge with seven home runs. Pitchers' home runs were counted twice, which put Morgan's home run total at 14. Pitchers totaled 55 HRs and hitters added 101 to that count. Since pitchers' totals were doubled, the overall team tally was 211 home runs, which generated more than $20,000.
For anyone interested in supporting TTU baseball, please visit http://www.ttusports.com/information/development2 and select men's baseball from drop-down menu under Gift Designation.