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Golden Eagles rally to down in-state rival Blue Raiders, 11-9

Golden Eagles rally to down in-state rival Blue Raiders, 11-9

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Following a two-hour weather delay before the first pitch was even thrown, the Tennessee Tech baseball team delivered a five-run comeback to down in-state rival Middle Tennessee by an 11-9 final score Tuesday evening at Quillen Field and Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex.

The visitors from Murfreesboro were quick on the attack in the first of two meetings between the longtime foes, swinging early in the count and taking advantage of a number of defensive miscues by the Tech defense. The Blue Raiders (10-17) scored an unearned run in the first inning and used a sacrifice fly in the second to make it a 2-0 lead.

The Golden Eagles (17-12) responded in the bottom of the second, starting with an RBI double down the left-field line off the bat of designated hitter Preston Ford. The slugger plated shortstop Tanner Shiver all the way from first base. Ford came around to score later in the frame on a throwing error by the Blue Raiders to tie the ball game.

More defensive issues by the purple and gold led to four more unearned runs by MTSU in the third inning, one that saw the visiting bats accumulate three hits to bring their total to seven through three frames. One more error in the fourth led to one final unearned run by the Blue Raiders, leaving Tech in the five-run hole.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Golden Eagles took a big chunk out of the deficit, banging out three hits with three walks to plate four runs. After Ford singled to left and right fielder Theo Bryant IV doubled to left center, third baseman Eddie Garza drew a four-pitch walk to load the bags.

Middle Tennessee picked up the second out of the frame before the lineup kicked over to the top where left fielder Austin Turner delivered a clutch at-bat. The senior worked a seven-pitch walk to drive in a run with his Ohio Valley Conference-leading 36th free pass of the year.

Second baseman Troy Baunsgard, who doubled in the third inning, watched four of the next five offerings also miss their mark to collect his own RBI walk. Doubling Tech's output for the frame was catcher Hayden Gilliland thanks to a two-run single up the middle. The knock cut the deficit to just a single run heading into the fifth.

It took two more innings, but the Cookeville crew finished off the rally in the sixth, scoring two runs off the bat of Baunsgard. The senior slugger produced a savvy slice to center field, dropping a two-run single in for the game-tying and go-ahead runs.

For good measure, the Tech offense worked a little overtime in the eighth inning, adding a wildly important three insurance runs to the scoreboard. Turner picked up walk No. 37 on the year to lead things off and promptly stole his team-leading 12th bag of the year. A base hit through the right side from Gilliland put runners on the corners with Nicho Jordan coming to the plate.

The Tech center fielder drew a walk to load the bases, setting up Shiver for an RBI single through the left side. Ford followed by forcing a fielder's choice to shortstop, sprinting to the first-base bag and reaching safely on an errant throw by the second baseman. The senior got credit for one RBI on the play while a second run scored on a throwing error.

The inning's offense proved critical for the purple and gold, as the Blue Raiders made things interesting in the ninth with a two-run home run with one out. Sophomore Brody Lanham finished things off with his second strikeout of the inning.

Jack Erdman, who took over on the hill in the fourth inning, picked up his second win of the season following three innings of work. The junior scattered one hit and one, unearned run while striking out three Blue Raiders. Freshman Drew Mattox and sophomore Jaxson Pease each accounted for scoreless frames to bridge the way to Lanham.

Baunsgard led the Golden Eagles with three RBI on the night, finishing 2-for-4 with a walk. Ford enjoyed a big day at the dish with a 3-for-5 showing, two ribbies, and two runs scored. Turner and Garza each scored twice, with Turner collecting the two walks. Eight of Tech's nine hitters combined to total 13 knocks in the contest.

The Cookeville crew will remain at the Quill this weekend, playing host to league rival Morehead State in a three-game series starting Friday at 6:00 p.m. CT. Saturday's two will feature a 2:00 p.m. first pitch while the series finale will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Photo by Jim Dillon

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