By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – It was a heartbreaker for the Tennessee Tech baseball team Tuesday night, as the Golden Eagles (12-17) dropped a 3-2 decision at Lindsey Nelson Stadium to No. 5 Tennessee (30-8) on a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth.
What looked sure to be a high-scoring affair on tap for the night quickly shifted into a chess match between the two pitching staffs. The purple and gold jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, kick-started by the lead-off batter, shortstop Ed Johnson, reaching base after getting hit by a pitch.
Second baseman Brett Roberts followed with one of his game-high three hits – not a single other player for either side had more than one on the night – a single through the right side. Both runners advanced on a passed ball, setting up first baseman Golston Gillespie for an RBI ground out to his counterpart on the Vols' side of the diamond.
Tennessee answered in the bottom half of the inning, collecting an unearned run on an RBI single up the middle with two outs. From that point on, the pitching staffs took control of the game. A combined six pitchers – two for the Golden Eagles and four for the Vols – traded zeroes on the scoreboard over the next four innings.
It was the home team that finally bucked the trend in the sixth, gathering another unearned run after a Tech error led to a Vol home run. It took a couple more chances, but the Golden Eagles knotted things up in the eighth with some timely offense.
Roberts upped his team-high batting average to .387 with another base hit, this one of the infield variety. He promptly stole second base and then swiped third on Tennessee's second strikeout of the inning, becoming the first Golden Eagle to rack up at least 15 steals in a season since Thomas Nelson ripped off 19 in 2008.
Left fielder Cody Littlejohn delivered the clutch hit of the ball game – one of Tech's four on the night – splitting the infield up the middle for an RBI single.
The Vols drew a leadoff walk to open the ninth, and swapped an out for a base runner with a sacrifice bunt followed by an intentional walk. Max Ferguson produced the game-winning blow, an RBI single to right field.
While Roberts led the offensive effort by the Golden Eagles, it was junior Brock Myers providing the dominant showing on the mound. The Goodlettsville, Tenn. native tossed five innings of relief, scattering two hits with six strikeouts and zero walks and allowing just a single, unearned run. After taking over in the third inning, he was lifted with two outs in the eighth.
After seven straight games on the road over the past two weeks, the Golden Eagles finally return home for the weekend for an Ohio Valley Conference series with in-state rival Belmont. Play is currently slated to begin with a 6:00 p.m. CT tilt Friday, Apr. 23. A doubleheader is scheduled for Saturday, Apr. 24 starting at 1:00 p.m.
The three-game set is part of four consecutive contests between the two teams, with a 5:00 p.m. match-up on the docket on Tuesday. That game will not have any OVC implications as a midweek affair.
Because of expected inclement weather in the Cookeville area this weekend, fans are encouraged to check social media and the TTUSports.com website for updates concerning this weekend's schedule, should any changes occur.
File photo by Kent State Athletics