Golden Eagles split two at home with JSU to open conference play
*Photo courtesy of Craig Delk, Cookeville Herald-Citizen
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles rallied in game two of Saturday's double header event with an 8-4 win over the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State, led by Chad Oberacker with four of Tech's eight RBI on the game, after falling short in game one, 8-2.
Jacksonville kept the Golden Eagles off the board through five in game one as they racked up a 5-0 lead headed into the bottom of the fifth frame. Their strongest inning was a three-run half in the top of the first, which gave them an early lead and which they matched once again in the top of the eighth.
Freshman southpaw starter Jake McWhirter walked two and induced two fielder's choice outs at second to kick off the game, but a third walk to Ben Waldrip put runners on first and second for Kyle Bluestein. Bluestein notched his 23 hit of the season to score Sam Eberle and advanced to second on a passed ball at home on the play.
With Waldrip and Bluestein now both in scoring position, Eric Underwood clocked a two-RBI single up the middle to give JSU a 3-0 lead on the game.
Jacksonville State worked Tristan Archer, who came on in relief for McWhirter in the second, for two more runs in the third and fourth innings, before Tech answered with a two-run half in the bottom of the fifth. Eberle, Waldrip and Bluestein each notched singles in the third inning, with Bluefield's working for an RBI to stretch the lead to 4-0 in favor of Jacksonville.
In another two-out situation in the fourth, nine-hole hitter Andrew Bishop recorded his sole hit of the game and lead-off man Corey Blanchard singled through the right side to put runners on first and second for Scott Underwood. His single through the right side scored Bishop and put JSU up 5-0.
Golden Eagle DH Evan Frazier ripped a single down the left field line to kick off Tech's scoring in the fifth, and a passed ball walk to Devin Rivers put runners on the corners for Chad Hayes. Hitting in the nine-spot, Hayes roped an RBI single to score Frazier. He and Rivers moved into scoring position on a groundout by Austin Wulf, and Rivers scored on a passed ball to narrow the JSU lead to 5-2.
Tech couldn't keep the momentum going however, as JSU worked Archer for three more runs on two hits and two errors in the eighth and held the Golden Eagles to just the one inning of scoring.
Archer pitched seven innings, allowing five runs on eight hits and striking out five. McWhirter was tagged with the loss after one inning of work, surrendering three runs on as many hits and recording one strikeout as he fell to 0-3 on the year.
JSU starter Aaron Elias earned the win with six strikeouts in 7.1 innings of work, improving to 4-1 on the season.
Hayes and Wulf led the Golden Eagles with 2-for-3 performances at the plate, with one of Hayes' hits working for Tech's sole RBI of the contest. Bluestein notched his third hit of the game for JSU in the eighth inning, putting him at 3-for-4 in game one with two RBI to lead the Gamecocks.
Eric Underwood joined Bluestein with a multi-hit effort, going 2-for-4 with two RBI, while six other Gamecocks combined for the remaining six hits of the game.
Tech took command first in the seven-inning bout of the afternoon on a two-shot homer by Oberacker. His fifth long ball of the season scored Zephan Guyear (pictured) after a walk to put Tech on top, 2-0.
The second inning offered a lead change, rallying point for JSU and a tie all in one, as Jacksonville answered the two-run first with a four run top half in the second inning. Eric Underwood tripled down the right field line to lead off, and an RBI single by Blake Seguin put JSU on the board, 2-1. With two outs, Tech starter Matt Shepherd walked Stephen Bartlett and moved both Bartlett and Segiun in scoring position on a wild pitch for Blanchard's double into left field. Jake Sharrock capped off the scoring for the inning with an RBI single to score Blanchard, giving JSU the 4-2 edge.
TTU answer in the bottom of the second though, as a sacrifice bunt to Devin Rivers moved Burgess, who singled, and Frazier, who walked, to second and third. Hayes' RBI groundout scored Burgess, while lead-off hitter Austin Wulf singled to bring in Frazier. With the game tied at four-all, Tanner Freshour replaced JSU starter Bradley Raulston on the mound to get the third out.
Freshour's appearance with the game tied inevitably caused him to have to shoulder the loss, as he pitched 2.1 innings, including the bottom of the fourth, which yielded four more runs on five hits for Tech.
Frazier struck again with a double down the right field line and scored on Rivers' single up the middle. He moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Hayes and a groundout by Wulf, scoring on Guyear's single to the JSU shortstop.
Oberacker roped his second homer of the game to finish the scoring, bringing in two more for Tech and giving him four RBI on the game. He went 2-for-4 in game two to lead Tech at the plate.
Freshour gave up a total of five hits on the game, all in the bottom of the fourth, before being replaced by Chase Smith. Overall, the JSU bullpen only struck out two batters in 30 faced in game two of the day.
Shepherd earned the win for the Golden Eagles in three innings of work, allowing four runs on seven hits and notching two Ks. The win lifted him to an even 3-3 record on the season.
Tech, now 9-15 on the season (1-1 in conference) and JSU (18-9/3-2) will meet on Sunday for the series finale, with the first pitch slated for 1 p.m.