Kirby-Jones' four RBIs not enough to top Volunteers

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech baseball team got four RBIs from sophomore A.J. Kirby-Jones, who hit his sixth and seventh home runs of the season, but the Golden Eagles couldn’t top Tennessee, falling to the Volunteers 7-5.

Kirby-Jones finished the game 3-for-4 with a pair of home runs and an RBI single, and starting pitcher Chad Oberacker went 3-for-5 from the plate, and also pitched four innings, giving up three runs, but a four-run fifth inning put Tennessee up for good.

The Golden Eagles (10-5) out-hit the Vols (9-9) 11-7, but untimely walks from the Tech pitching staff sparked Tennessee’s big inning.

It didn’t take the Golden Eagles long to light up the scoreboard, as pitcher Chad Oberacker helped his own cause by hitting a single into right field. That set up A.J. Kirby-Jones to blast a 380-foot two-run homer to up Tech up 2-0 in the top of the first inning. It was Kirby-Jones’ sixth home run of the season.

The Volunteers cut into the deficit with a two-out rally in the bottom of the third inning. Cantrell Davis legged out a triple to left field, before Oberacker walked the next two batters, loading the bases for Cody Brown, who singled to center, scoring Davis. Blake Forsythe also tried to score on the play, but Alex Henry made a perfect throw to the plate from center field to get Forsythe out and end the inning with Tech still ahead 2-1.

Kirby-Jones added to his RBI total in the top of the fifth, when his single scored Henry from second. Then a Tech double steal put runners on second and third, but Ryne Simpson got out of the jam, popping up Cory Wright and getting Tate McMillan to ground out.

In the bottom of the frame Oberacker walked the first two batters before being replaced by senior Blake Forst, who walked his first two batters, scoring P.J. Polk. Brown then knocked in a run on sac fly to right, which tied the game at 3. The Volunteers tacked on two more runs in the inning to take a 5-3 lead into the sixth.

Another Kirby-Jones home run in the seventh inning pulled Tech back within one, but the Vols got the run back in the bottom of the inning, to go ahead 6-4.

Down 7-4 in the top of the ninth, the Golden Eagles got runners on the corners with nobody out for Kirby-Jones, who grounded into a double play, scoring Henry from third base. After Evan Webb walked and Wright singled, Brandon Crossman stepped in to pinch hit, and hit a blooper to shallow left field which was caught by second baseman Cory Grisham and gave the Vols the upset.

The Golden Eagles return to action Saturday when they open a three-game series against Southeast Missouri to open Ohio Valley Conference play. The first game of a double header will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Bush Stadium.