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Smiddy gem powers Tech past Leathernecks in series opener

Smiddy gem powers Tech past Leathernecks in series opener

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – If class was in session at Quillen Field and Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex Thursday evening, Landon Smiddy provided one heckuva lecture for the Tennessee Tech baseball team, as the Golden Eagle hurler used a gutsy showing on the mound to lead his squad to a 6-3 win over Western Illinois.

Taking the hill for the first at home in Ohio Valley Conference play, Smiddy put on a dazzling display that just seemed to get stronger as the evening went on. The ETSU transfer completed a career-best 8.1 innings, allowing just two earned runs and three total while scattering nine hits.

Even more eye-popping was the senior's 11 strikeouts without issuing a single free pass. Earning his second win of the season, Smiddy tossed a ridiculous 134 pitches to set the tone for the weekend for the Golden Eagles (14-12, 2-2).

The Leathernecks (6-16, 2-2) actually got to the Tech ace early in the affair scoring the first run of the ball game with a pair of hits in the first inning. The Golden Eagle bats answered in the bottom half, as catcher Hayden Gilliland used ambush tactics to pulverize the first pitch he saw with two outs and deposit it over the wall in right field for a solo home run, his fifth of the year.

In the second, Western Illinois plated its second run behind an error by the Tech defense, but the lead would be short-lived yet again. This time, however, the Cookeville crew made sure to make it disappear completely and never come back.

Shortstop Tanner Shiver kicked off the bottom of the second with a base knock to left-center field. First baseman Preston Ford followed with a double that bounced off the top edge of the wall in right-center field, missing a long ball by about two inches.

With a pair of runners aboard, right fielder Theo Bryant IV brought the train all the way home, hammering the second pitch he saw to left field for a three-run bomb. The veteran's third dinger of the year gave Tech the lead for good.

Western Illinois managed one more run in the ball game, picking up a marker behind three hits in the top of the fourth. Shiver and second baseman Troy Baunsgard turned a nifty double play to end any further threat and Smiddy took over from that point on.

Heading into the fifth inning, Smiddy had just one punch-out next to his name on the stat sheet. That would quickly change over the next 4.1 innings, starting with a pair in the fifth. Two more were added to the tally in the sixth before the savvy veteran tacked on another duo in the seventh.

After surrendering a lead-off base hit in the eighth, Smiddy looked like a man possessed, fanning the side to take the Golden Eagles to their final turn with the sticks. He was rewarded with two huge insurance runs, thanks to a two-run blast off the bat of Ford. The senior's fourth jack of the year left the ballpark in left-center field.

Smiddy took his podium one final time to start the ninth, corralling one last K for his career-high collection before surrendering a double and leaving the game to a standing ovation from the crowd. Sophomore Brody Lanham made the trip from the bullpen to the mound, looking to secure the final two outs of a pure gem from his teammate.

A light flair found a snippet of green in right field on his second offering of the game, putting runners on the corner with one out. Lanham dialed in, needing just three pitches to set down the next Leatherneck batter with a strikeout.

A seven-pitch walk loaded the bases for the visitors before Lanham's final pitch of the game resulted in a line drive out directly to Austin Turner in left field. Lanham earned his second save of the season for his efforts.

Ford and Gilliland led the Golden Eagles with two hits and two runs each while Bryant paced the Cookeville crew in the RBI column with three.

Game two of the series is set for a 6:00 p.m. CT first pitch Friday evening at the Quill.

Photo by Jim Dillon

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