By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – In fitting fashion, it was a pair of seniors that led the Tennessee Tech baseball team to a doubleheader split with Ohio Valley Conference rival Morehead State on Senior Day.
Starter Andrew O'Dwyer and All-American Kevin Strohschein provided the excitement for the day, helping the Golden Eagles (21-28, 8-18) to a 3-2 victory over the Eagles (32-18, 15-10) in game one of Friday's doubleheader.
O'Dwyer turned in the best performance of his career in his final start at Quillen Field and Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex. The southpaw struck out a career-high 10 batters while holding Morehead State scoreless for five innings. He surrendered just three hits and two walks while securing his team-high third win of the year.
Strohschein sent the Golden Eagle fan base into a frenzy in the fourth inning, leading off the frame with a mammoth blast to left field, easily one of the longest home runs of his career. The solo shot tied the McDonough, Ga. native for the OVC's career record for long balls with former Tech great Zach Stephens at 62. Additionally, it marked the 15th of his career.
It also provided Strohschein with his sixth league mark, which also includes at bats, hits, doubles, RBI and total bases. The round tripper created a 2-0 lead for Tech.
The Golden Eagles took the lead officially in the third inning, playing some small ball to give O'Dwyer some room to work with. Freshman JD Funk led off the frame with a double down the left field line. Catcher Will Long and shortstop Hunter Higdon followed by each recording sacrifice bunts, with Higdon earning an RBI.
In the seventh, the purple and gold turned in an insurance run with sophomore Jason Hinchman scoring on a sacrifice fly ball to left field for a 3-0 lead.
Sophomore reliever Tyler Sylvester staved off a late rally attempt in the ninth, garnering his third save of the year after four innings of work out of the bullpen. He induced a fly ball to left field after surrendering one earned run and two total in the ninth.
The two sides played a back-and-forth, drama-filled affair in game two, with the Golden Eagles taking the early lead in the first. Strohschein laced a double off the wall in center field, just missing out on his second dinger of the game. It did represent his career-high 20th two-bagger of the season.
After a walk to freshman John Dyer, Hinchman ripped his own double down the left field line to drive in a run. Junior Gavin Johns drove in the second run for Tech with a sacrifice fly to foul territory down the right field line.
Morehead State snagged a marker in the fourth, but Tech answered with some fireworks in the bottom half. Hinchman uncorked a huge solo jack to left center field to lead off the inning, torching the first pitch he saw for his 22nd trip around the bases on the year. It tied for the second most in program history with former Golden Eagle All-American Brandon Thomasson's 22 in 2014.
Freshman JD Funk followed two batters later, destroying his own solo four-bagger to left center field to provide a 4-1 lead.
The Eagles took over the lead in the fifth, scoring four times on the power of a three-run home run from Jake Hammon. Tech answered in the bottom half, again using the power swing to perfection.
Junior Anthony Carrera, who robbed Morehead's Stephen Hill of a home run in the first inning of the contest, slashed his own wall-clearing shot down the right field line. It represented his 13th of the season. Two batters later, Dyer hammered his own solo blast to left field, his 10th of the season. The shot gave Tech the lead once again, this time at 6-5.
In the seventh Morehead State scored three runs to take an 8-6 lead, and would add two more to that lead in the ninth. Tech mounted a rally in the bottom half, with Carrera and Strohschein notching RBI singles to cut the deficit in half.
It was as close as Tech would get as the Eagles would hold on for the victory and doubleheader split.
In between the two contest, the Golden Eagles held its annual Senior Day ceremony, honoring seven young men for their dedication and hard work for the Tech baseball program over the previous four seasons. Honored on the day were manager Tyler McGill, outfielder Andrew Swanson, pitcher Seth Noel, pitcher Zach Wilcox, pitcher Ty King, pitcher Andrew O'Dwyer and outfielder Kevin Strohschein.
Game three of the series is currently scheduled for a 2:00 p.m. CT start on Saturday, but will be reevaluated as the morning goes with inclement weather expected in the Cookeville area the remainder of the weekend. Fans are encouraged to check social media and the TTUSports.com website for updates concerning this weekend's schedule and stream schedule.
Photos by Thomas Corhern