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Redhawks stun Golden Eagles with 10th-inning home run to take series opener

Redhawks stun Golden Eagles with 10th-inning home run to take series opener

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – A pitcher's duel for nine innings saw one big swing decide the winner Friday night at Quillen Field and Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex, as Southeast Missouri outlasted the Tennessee Tech baseball team, 4-1, in 10 innings in an instant classic to kick off a huge first-place battle in Ohio Valley Conference play.

The Redhawks (20-18, 9-4) were quick to get on the scoreboard against reigning OVC Pitcher of the Week Landon Smiddy, using three hits and a sac bunt to score one run in the opening frame of the ballgame. From that point on, it was a whole bunch of zeros lighting up the night sky, as Smiddy and SEMO hurler Haden Dow waged war.

Dow held the Golden Eagles (23-14, 8-5) to just four hits over seven innings, inducing a large share of fly balls and ground outs without ever really allowing the purple and gold to get the offense going. Tech second baseman Troy Baunsgard tallied two doubles in that span, but the Cookeville crew was unable to make the extra-base hits count.

On the other side of the hill, Smiddy looked every bit the part of an ace yet again, bending but not breaking against one of the league's most potent offensive attacks. The ETSU transfer scattered nine hits over seven innings of work, surrendering just the lone run in the opening frame.

The right-hander racked up an impressive nine punch-outs in the contest, including a number of clutch strikeouts in huge moments throughout the evening. After allowing a lead-off double in the second, Smiddy calmly struck out the side to get out of the inning.

A double play ball in the third helped the senior escape a jam with two runners on. In the fourth, the Knoxville native fanned two more batters while stranding another two Redhawk runners. A three-up, three-down frame in the fifth brought him to the sixth, where he used three ground outs to pitch around a one-out double.

For good measure, Smiddy struck out two more batters in the seventh to keep the game alive and open for the purple and gold. Taking over on the mound for the Golden Eagles in the eighth, rookie Eli Huddleston was spectacular in a harrowing moment.

SEMO led off the inning with a double and moved the runner to third with a sacrifice bunt. The local freshman responded by inducing a ground out and fly out to center field, moving things on to the ninth.

The Redhawks pressed again in the ninth, drawing a lead-off walk and advancing the runner to second on a wild pitch. Huddleston dug deep and rebounded quickly by striking out the side to give his team one last chance.

It paid off, as designated hitter Nicho Jordan provided the biggest swing of the night, up to that point. Back in the lineup after battling injury the past two weeks, the slugger hammered a lead-off, no-doubt, game-tying bomb to right-center field. The junior's sixth long ball of the year forced extra innings and sent the Tech crowd into a frenzy.

Southeast Missouri used an error to lead off the frame and a one-out walk to put a pair on and force a meeting on the mound to discuss the team's options. Redhawk right fielder Josh Cameron simply produced a great swing, smashing a three-run blast to right-center field to provide the deadly blow and give the visitors a 4-1 win.

Baunsgard secured three of Tech's six hits on the night, leading a tough night of offense for the purple and gold. Despite the loss, Huddleston turned in three solid innings for the Golden Eagles, allowing just two hits while striking out five Redhawk batters.

Game two of the weekend series is set to open Saturday afternoon with a 2:00 p.m. first pitch at the Quill.

Photo by Jim Dillon

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