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April 12, 2009

Golden Eagles complete sweep over EKU in crucial OVC series

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech baseball team found its groove in a big way Saturday, completing a three-game Ohio Valley Conference sweep of Eastern Kentucky with a pair of wins in a double-header, beating the Colonels 8-2 and 4-3.

After a slow start in conference play, Tech improved to 16-12 overall, and 4-7 in the OVC, and is right back in the thick of things with 12 conference games remaining. “Our guys executed extremely well today, and we did a lot of little things right, and that’s what you need to do to win, and beat good teams,” head coach Matt Bragga said. “It’s a great weekend, our guys played with a lot of passion, and competed really well and played with a lot of resolve, so I’m proud of them.”

Tech had three bunt-singles on the day, and was 3-for-4 in stolen base attempts while hitting a combined .449 in the two games.

“Coach always preaches getting our bunts in the kill zones, and when you’ve got guys who can really run you never know what’s going to happen,” senior catcher Cory Wright said.

Eastern Kentucky (18-12, 6-6) came into the series leading the OVC in batting average and stolen bases, but Tech held the Colonels to a .196 batting average for the day, and Wright foiled both of EKU’s steal attempts against him.

“We had talked all week how EKU led the conference in stolen bags,” Wright said. “They don’t necessarily have a lot guys that are too fast out there, they just pick good times to steal. I took it upon myself to shut that down early, and they kept trying to go, so that just gave me more opportunities to throw, and my arm was feeling good.”

In the first game of the double-header Tech’s pitching staff shut down the EKU offense, as Michael Alcorn started on the mound, and pitched three innings, allowing one earned run, before A.J. Kirby-Jones pitched the last four innings, giving up just one hit and no runs while fanning four batters.

The Golden Eagle offense had no problem getting started, as Tech piled on eight runs on 10 hits, led by senior Alex Henry, who went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and his second home run of the season. Casanova Donaldson and Tate McMillan each went 2-for-3, and Ben Burgess banged out three RBIs as Tech put together a five-run second inning to take control of the game early.

Tech’s bats didn’t cool off for the second game, as the team hit .500 for the game, going 12-of-24 from the plate.

With the game tied 3-3 in the bottom of the fifth, Kirby-Jones blasted his team-leading 10th home run of the season, a solo shot, to give Tech its final 4-3 advantage. Henry, Donaldson, Evan Webb and Chad Oberacker each went 2-for-3 in that game.

It was another outstanding pitching performance in that game that helped the Golden Eagles to victory, as Lee Henry pitched a complete game (seven innings) allowing just five hits and one earned run.

Alex Henry finished the day going 5-for-6 from the plate. With two hits in each game, Donaldson extended his current hit streak to seven games.

The Golden Eagles host a non-conference double-header on April 14 against Covenent at 4 p.m. and visit East Tennessee State for a return game on April 15 before traveling to Austin Peay for a three-game OVC series April 18 and 19.