February 24, 2013

Golden Eagles walk-off with 10-9 win over Niagara in 11 innings


COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - Trailing 8-3 in the sixth inning, all looked bleak for the Tennessee Tech baseball team. The Golden Eagles (4-3) never gave in, however, capping a five-run comeback with a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the 11th inning to defeat Niagara (1-6), 10-9.

Second baseman Zach Zarzour led off the for the Golden Eagles in the bottom of the 11th inning, roping a double down the right field line. After a sacrifice bunt by Austin Wulf advanced Zarzour to third, the Purple Eagles opted to intentionally walk juniors Zach Stephens and Brandon Thomasson to load the bases and try for a double play. Niagara even brought in the center fielder as a fifth infielder to prevent any chance of a ground ball getting through.

Golden Eagle senior James Abraham came through in the clutch, patiently forcing Niagara's starting right fielder, who came in to pitch in the bottom of the ninth inning, to pitch to him. Gold trumped purple in the showdown as Abraham earned a four-pitch walk to give Tech its fourth win of the season.

With a five-run deficit hanging over their heads, the Golden Eagle bats put together a fantastic rally in the sixth and seventh innings. Sparking the comeback was the top of the order for Tech offense, as both Zarzour and Wulf earned full-count walks to open the bottom of the sixth. Stephens followed it up by ripping a single throught left side of the infield, driving Zarzour in for an RBI and advancing Wulf to second.

Perhaps no Tech player made a bigger impact with his bat this weekend than Thomasson. Following a career-performance in which he homered twice and drove in five RBI while going three-for-three the day before, the junior hammered a three-run shot on the first pitch he saw. His three-run jack brought the Golden Eagles within one run and gave the designated hitter his fourth home run of the year and third in two days.

Tech went on to score in the seventh to tie the contest at 8-8 with a fielder's choice ground ball RBI by Wulf.

The Purple Eagles looked destined to win the game in the 10th, following an RBI single by Niagara second baseman Michael Furhman. TTU wanted none of that, however, using gutsy play from senior Zephan Guyear to rally once more. Guyear lasered a one-out double down the left field line to drive in Abraham to ties things up at 9-9 and take it to the 11th.

Guyear showed real moxy on the next play, taking off from second before the pitcher even threw a pitch. Noticing that no one was covering third, the senior dove head first and raised his right arm to avoid a diving tag by a recovering third baseman to nab his first stolen base of the year.

While Niagara escaped from the inning, the play put a secondary charge into the Golden Eagle team, driving Stephens to making a web-gem at first base with the Purple Eagles threatening.

After two quick outs to start the 11th, the Purple Eagle right fielder-turned-pitcher Jordan Schwartz recorded a double to keep Niagara in it. Senior Zane Morton came on in relief for the Golden Eagles after a walk gave Niagara two men on with two outs. The submarine-style hurler forced lead-off man Kevin Paulsen to pop up towards the right field fence. 

This is where Stephenson made perhaps his biggest impact of the game. With the ball sailing high and towards the out-of-play area, the first baseman ran full speed into the fence grabbing it just as it went foul. He held on to end the inning and record perhaps the biggest out of the game.

The Golden Eagles used seven pitchers to piece together the 10-9 victory, getting assistance from starter Jacob Honea and relievers Garrett Baugh, Stanton Taylor, Seth Lucio, Justin Alexander, Nick Price, and Morton. Morton earned the win for Tech, his first of the year.

Seven Tech players drove in runs as Thomasson and Michael Morris led the way with three and two RBI, respectively. Zarzour and Abraham paced the offense in terms of hits, gathering three each. both players also walked and scored twice.

Thievery was highly involved in the contest, as five Golden Eagles swiped bases including Zarzour, Wulf, Abraham, Dylan Bosheers, and Guyear. Six Tech players were hit-by-a-pitch as well.

The baseball team will continue the 2013 campaign with a single home contest on Tuesday, Feb. 26 against in-state rival Middle Tennessee. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m. CST as the Blue Raiders come to Cookeville as part of a home-and-away series.