By Thomas Corhern, Herald-Citizen Sports
COOKEVILLE — Balancing academics, community service and athletics is a tremendous task.
As shown last week as Kellie Cook was announced as the winner of the Tennessee Tech Woman of the Year award, it takes an exceptional committment to the ideals of the university and the overarching goal of a diploma in one hand and a championship ring on the other.
It is by no means an easy one.
But nothing worthwhile is.
Among the nine student-athletes nominated for the Man of the Year award are champions on the court, scholars in the classroom and beacons in the community.
Every one of the nominated student-athletes were worthy of the award, whether it was reigning Male Athlete of the Year Syrym Abdukhalikov from tennis, basketball’s Terrell Barnes, Cookeville native Taylor Hennigan from football, golfer Greg Kitts, football’s Tre Lamb, Adam McLeod from cross country, or baseball’s Austin Wulf and Nick Price.
But through the committee’s deliberation, the choice was a well-deserved one for Tech senior pitcher Tristan Archer.
“I’m honored,” Archer said. “This is a great group of student-athletes and it’s just amazing to be recognized among these guys.”
The selection was not a surprise to his former coach.
“Man, there’s just so many ways you can describe Tristan,” said Tech baseball coach Matt Bragga. “On the mound, he’s just a warrior. He just goes about his business. He’s a very level-headed guy, but the part of his demeanor that a lot of people can’t see is that he is a warrior. From the outside, you’d never know how fierce of a competitor this guy is, but off the field, the best way to describe him is a gentleman to the fullest.
“He’s just a neat young man. He never gets flustered with anything. He always stays level-headed. He was a great leader, was one of our captains this year and you don’t get that without good leadership skills because our guys vote on that. That says volumes on what they think of him.”
A four-year starter for the Golden Eagle baseball team, Archer spent the season rewriting the Tech record books, claiming the top spots in wins (23), starts (55) and innings pitched (323 2/3).
He ranks second in career strikeouts with 273.
This season, Archer recorded nine wins in his fifteen starts, with two complete games to his credit. He struck out 97 batters this season and had a 3.34 earned run average.
A member of the Ohio Valley Conference’s all-Freshman team in 2010, Archer lived up to his promise through the course of his career.
Archer is also one of the few players who have been able to come through the Tech program with two championship rings, winning both the 2010 and 2013 regular-season championships.
“When he was leaving, he looked at me and said, ‘Coach, there aren’t many people at many schools who got to have two rings,’” Bragga said. “I’m like that’s a great point. To win two championships in his four years here, that doesn’t happen often. He was an integral part of that process to get this program where it’s at today.”
Archer added, “I came in as a freshman and won a championship, had two years in the middle that were a little rough, then this past year with another championship and a record-setting year with 40 wins, that’s just awesome.”
At the conclusion of the season, Archer was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the Major League Baseball entry draft and currently plays with the Helena Brewers in the minor league ranks.
“He’s a great player,” Bragga said. “I know he’s not off to a great start in the minors, but he’s not off to a bad start either. To me, he’s a guy that I really believe that can pitch in the big leagues. He’s that good. He’s not the hardest thrower we’ve ever had and may not have the best breaking ball, but he’s got a really good fastball, plus breaking ball, plus change-up and the demeanor that fits it all.”