COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - As the saying goes, all good things come in threes. The Tennessee Tech baseball team (26-10, 15-3) proved that Sunday afternoon, rallying on three separate occasions to win its series-sweeping third game against Eastern Illinois (12-21, 3-11), 6-5.
Keeping to theme of the day, the Golden Eagles came from behind for the third time in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring, you better believe it, three runs to take its their first lead of the game. The one-run advantage proved more than enough as sophomore closer Seth Lucio knew it was time for his date with history.
Entering the contest in the top of the eighth, Lucio struck out four Panthers in two innings of work, including the final batter he faced. The closer allowed just two hits on his way to earning his eighth save of the season and breaking the Golden Eagle single-season record for saves.
EIU first baseman Treysen Vavra was the top bat for the Panthers, gathering two hits in five at-bats while driving in two runs. Reliever George Kalousek (1-1) took the loss for EIU, giving up three earned runs in one inning of work. He walked two and struck out one while picking up his first loss of the season.
The Panthers started things right off the bat, pun intended, as lead-off man Caleb Howell opened the game with a home run over the right field wall. Tech starter Jacob Honea recovered nicely, however, retiring the next three batters with a ground out and two strikeouts.
Eastern Illinois grabbed control again in the third, collecting two runs off a double by Vavra. With a 3-1 lead, the Panther pitching staff protected its advantage for two innings. Then Brandon Thomasson decided he had something to say.
After junior slugger Zach Stephens drilled a double down the left field line, Thomasson stepped into the box. The designated hitter delivered, hammering a towering, two-run shot over the left field fence to even up the score at 3-3. It marked the junior's 10th home run of the season as well as Tech's second rally of the game.
Once again, the Panthers tried to salvage a win for the weekend, scoring twice in the top of the sixth inning and grabbing a 5-3 lead. It almost looked like the EIU squad would hold on too, as Ben Kennedy and Kalousek combined to shut down the Golden Eagle bats in the bottom half.
The Golden Eagles would have none of it, putting together a clutch team effort in the bottom of the seventh. Thomasson started things off, nearly grabbing his second homer of the contest as he smashed a double off the top of the left field wall. Miles walked in the next at-bat, giving Tech two men on with no outs.
After a quick line-out, senior Michael Morris pinch-hit for Zephan Guyear, drawing a huge walk to load the bases for fellow senior James Abraham. The left fielder fought of four pitches before finally drilling a single through the left side. Abraham's hit drove in both Thomasson and Miles, tying the game at 5-5 and giving the Golden Eagles their third rally of the game.
It proved to be their last as Zarzour came to the plate with two outs. The junior second baseman calmly swatted a two-strike pitch into center field, gathering a double and, more importantly, driving in the game-winning run.
Junior reliever Stanton Taylor (3-0) earned his third win of the season, tossing 1.1 innings while allowing just one hit and striking out two batters.
Tech will now hit the road for four games, beginning with a contest at No. 3 Vanderbilt on Tuesday, April 16. The contest, which begins at 6:30 p.m. CDT, is the first against a top 30 opponent for the Golden Eagles this season.