By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – It was a doubleheader sweep for the Tennessee Tech baseball team Sunday afternoon, as the Golden Eagles claimed its opening Ohio Valley Conference series after defeating SIUE in a nine-inning contest and seven-inning game at Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex.
After falling to the Cougars (4-7, 1-2) in a tight, 9-8 contest in the series opener on Friday, the Golden Eagles (9-5, 2-1) made a statement in the first match-up on Sunday. Tech overcame an early deficit to win decisively, 12-6. Game two was more of a battle, featuring three lead changes before the Golden Eagles made another comeback to win, 7-6.
In the first contest of the day, it was the Tech offense and a stellar relief performance that did the job. Sluggers Jason Hinchman and John Dyer both went bananas during the game, combining for six hits, including four for extra bases, and 10 RBI.
Trailing 3-0 in the bottom of the second, Hinchman kicked off the first rally of the day for the Golden Eagles. Following a leadoff walk to left fielder Anthony Carrera, the first baseman crushed a two-run blast to left center field, cutting the deficit to one. It marked his second long ball of the series and third in as many games.
Tech scored later in the frame on a balk, tying the score at 3-3. In the third, the Golden Eagles took the lead for good as Hinchman continued his heroic performance.
All-American Kevin Strohschein singled to lead off the frame and Carrera followed behind with a clutch, six-pitch walk. Hinchman took his turn at the plate, providing more fireworks with a three-run shot off the batter's eye in center field.
SIUE scored single runs in fourth and fifth, but Dyer took his turn crushing the baseball for a while. In the bottom half of the fifth, the designated hitter ripped a two-run double to left center field, making it an 8-5 advantage.
He got back to it in the seventh, hammering a three-run round-tripper to right center field to blow the game wide open. He finished the game with five RBI on two hits while Hinchman posted a 4-for-5 performance with five RBI and three extra-base hits.
Jacob Cole had a strong showing out of the bullpen, tossing four and two thirds innings with just one, unearned run allowed. He scattered two hits and struck out four while earning his first win in the purple and gold.
Game two began much like the first contest, with the Cougars jumping out to a 3-0 lead. Tech answered with a single run in the bottom of the second, an RBI single from Dyer. The Golden Eagles added four more in the third, with Carrera's infield, RBI single of the chest of the first baseman the first of the frame.
Dyer drew a bases-loaded walk with two outs and two more men would score on a SIUE error before the inning would end. The Cougars scored the next three runs in the ball game, highlighted by a go-ahead, two-run home run in the sixth.
Tech answered one last time, scoring twice in the bottom half of the sixth without recording a hit. Freshman Jason Hogan kicked things off with a walk and second baseman Nathan McMeans followed with his own free pass. Both advanced on a ground out and the Cougars elected to load the bases again for Carrera, intentionally walking Strohschein.
Carrera responded with a sacrifice line out to right field, tying the game at 6-6 and advancing McMeans to third base. With two outs, the advance to third turned out to be critical as the redshirt freshman would sprint home and give the Golden Eagles the lead on a wild pitch, 7-6.
Sophomore Tyler Sylvester came on and finished the game for the purple and gold, closing the contest out while covering the final frame with a strikeout. He earned his second save of the year. Reliever Zach Wilcox earned the victory, his first of the season.
The Golden Eagles will continue the season on Tuesday, playing host to Valparaiso in midweek action in a 2:00 p.m. CT contest. Tech will then head to Nashville for an in-state match-up at Lipscomb at 4:00 p.m.
Photo by Tony Marable