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Tech bats outlast Panthers in 16-14 slobber knocker

Tech bats outlast Panthers in 16-14 slobber knocker

By Mike Lehman, TTU Sports Information

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The fireworks were out in full force at Quillen Field and Bush Stadium at the Averitt Express Baseball Complex Sunday afternoon, as the Tennessee Tech baseball team won a barn-burner over Ohio Valley Conference rival Eastern Illinois, 16-14.

The victory provided the Golden Eagles (28-20, 12-9) with the series victory over the Panthers (15-28, 9-12) after winning Saturday night, 6-5, via a walk-off wild pitch. With two weekends left in the regular season, the purple and gold rank in a tie for third in the league with Morehead State (28-20, 12-9) and just one game back of Little Rock (26-20, 13-8) and Southeast Missouri (25-23, 13-8) for first place.

Tech took care of business with a constant attack at the plate, starting with a pair of runs in the first. Shortstop Tanner Shiver drew a five-pitch walk to open the ball game and second baseman Troy Baunsgard immediately drove him in with an RBI double down the left-field line.

Baunsgard moved over to third on a deep fly ball to center field by catcher Hayden Gilliland and first baseman Preston Ford brought him home. Ford sent a sacrifice fly ball out to left field to make it a 2-0 lead.

Eastern Illinois responded with five runs off five hits in the second, flipping the table for a three-run lead of its own. In the third, the Cookeville crew cut that deficit to two behind an RBI groundout from Ford.

After EIU scored single runs in the fourth and fifth to make it a 7-3 ball game, the Golden Eagles roared back with three of their own in the fifth. Left fielder Jackson Green sparked the rally, smashing a lead-off home run to right-center field.

Shiver followed with a double and, two batters later, Gilliland delivered a mammoth, two-run blast to right field to cut the deficit to 7-6. The senior's 12th round tripper of the year also marked the 29th of his career, tying him for 13th in program history with Trevor Putzig (2015-18).

Trading blows back and forth, the Panther took their turn by scoring twice more in the sixth, moving back out by three at 9-6. Tech took control for good in the bottom half of the frame, plating four runs behind a small-ball approach.

Designated hitter Mack Whitcomb led off the frame with a well-earned walk and third baseman Eddie Garza got plunked to put a pair of runners on. A walk to Green loaded the bags and forced a pitching change for EIU.

The new hurler was unable to get the job done, as Shiver drew a bases-loaded walk to drive in a run and trim the deficit to two. An RBI ground out by Baunsgard made it a one-run game and Gilliland squared things up at 9-9 with a sac fly to right-center field. Ford put Tech on top for good with a base knock the other way through the right side, driving in the team's 10th run of the game.

Following the seventh-inning stretch, the Golden Eagles stretched the advantage to three, starting with an RBI fielder's choice to shortstop. Another run came around to score thanks to a throwing error on the play.

The Panthers pulled back a run in the eighth, but Tech looked to put things away for good in the bottom half. On the first pitch he saw, Whitcomb clobbered a three-run jack off the batter's eye in center field, his sixth long ball of the season. Just like that, it was 16-10.

The Panthers made it interesting in the ninth, using an RBI double and three-run dinger to score four times and make it a 16-14 ball game. Jaxson Pease sealed things with a strikeout for the win.

Gilliland, Ford, and Whitcomb all led the effort with three RBI each while Baunsgard, Gilliland, Nicho Jordan, and Whitcomb all delivered two hits each. Whitcomb and Shiver each accounted for three runs scored. Brody Lanham earned his first win of the season, tossing 2.1 innings of relief with just one earned run allowed with three strikeouts.

Tech will make its last road trip of the regular season next weekend, heading to Edwardsville, Ill. for a three-game slate in OVC play at SIUE. The series kicks off Friday evening at 6:00 p.m. CT.

Photo by Jim Dillon

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