By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Eight runs over the final two innings proved too little too late for the Tennessee Tech baseball team Tuesday evening, as No. 4 nationally-ranked Tennessee (38-11) held on to defeat the Golden Eagles (18-22) at Lindsey Nelson Stadium, 10-8.
After requiring a walk-off single to defeat the purple and gold by a score of 3-2 back on Apr. 20, the Vols seemed eager to provide more support on the scoreboard the second time around, plating four in the first inning alone. The home team added one additional run in each of the next five innings, speeding out to a 9-0 lead.
On the mound, Tennessee looked dominant early as well, holding the Golden Eagles to just two hits over the opening seven frames. In the eighth, however, Tech made its move.
With one out in the eighth and a pair of runners aboard, returning sophomore John Dyer delivered the first blow to the UT lead, dropping a pinch-hit, ground-rule, RBI double into left field for the first Tech run of the ballgame.
Like dominoes, the runs started to fall one after another. Second baseman Brett Roberts grounded out to second base to drive in the second Golden Eagle marker, leaving his team one out to work with in the frame.
It proved plenty with first baseman Golston Gillespie and center fielder Jason Hinchman each drawing walks to load the bases. A pitching change did nothing to scare off the purple and gold, as designated hitter Gavin Johns smashed a two-run double to right field to make it four runs for his squad.
Tennessee helped things along as well, tossing a pair of wild pitches to allow both Hinchman and Johns to dent the dish before finally closing out the inning. With the lead cut to just 9-6, the Vols looked to add some insurance, plating one and loading the bases, but southpaw Daniel Holley came on from the bullpen to force the final out of the frame.
The game seemed all but over quickly in the ninth, as the Vols sandwiched a base knock from shortstop Ed Johnson with a pair of outs. A miscue in the infield, however, allowed Roberts to reach safely and bring Gillespie to the dish. He delivered with a single to first base to load the bases.
Sophomore Owen Kiess, who came into the ballgame in the eighth as a defensive replacement, kept Tech's hopes alive for one more at bat, peppering a single up the middle for a pair of runs. The clutch hit made it a 10-8 ballgame, but the Vols forced a fly ball to center field to close things out.
Johnson led the Cookeville crew with a trio of hits and two runs scored, just a day after claiming his second Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Week honors. Johns also tallied multiple hits, driving in a pair and scoring once.
Tech will stay on the road for a three-game series at in-state and OVC rival UT Martin this weekend, kicking things off with a 5:00 p.m. CT contest on Friday, May 14. The two squads will then duel it out in a doubleheader starting at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May. 15.
File photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information